Lagan Valley MLA, Paul Givan will replace Arlene Foster as first minister of Northern Ireland after he was nominated by his party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to take over the role.
Paul Givan has been nominated to replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland's first minister. The Lagan Valley MLA, who entered politics as a researcher for Edwin Poots as a 17-year-old, was expected to be the choice and will take over the role next week.
The new DUP leader has been naming his Stormont ministerial team, who will take up their new roles on Monday 14 June. RTÉ News stated that ‘Mr Poots also announced two new ministers in MLAs Paul Frew and Michelle McIlveen… Mr Frew, the MLA for North Antrim and who acted as Mr Poots' campaign manager in the DUP leadership contest, replaces Diane Dodds as Economy Minister… Ms McIlveen, MLA for Strangford in Co Down, is set to replace Peter Weir as Education Minister'
Mr Poots earlier announced the names of chairs and vice chairs of Assembly committees. Gordon Lyons, a current Junior Minister, was the first of the old guard under Ms Foster to be axed from his role. He has been named as vice chair of the Health Committee. Revealing Mr Givan as first minister designate, Mr Poots paid tribute to Ms Foster, thanking her for the "excellent work" she had done.
Mr Givan said: "There is a huge responsibility that comes with this position, particularly in serving the people of Northern Ireland." Mr Poots also named Gary Middleton as junior minister… The ministerial roles will be designated at this stage, with the appointments post-dated to take effect from Monday.
Ms Foster had previously indicated that she will stand down when Mr Poots names a new ministerial team. But Mr Poots said she will remain as First Minister to lead a British-Irish Council meeting in the constituency of Fermanagh on Friday.
Flanked by the new appointments and deputy party leader Paula Bradley, Mr Poots named his new team. They include Christopher Stalford as principal deputy speaker and vice-chairman of the standards and privileges committee, Tom Buchanan as vice chairman of procedures, Keith Buchanan as vice chairman of the finance committee and Gordon Lyons as vice chairman of the health committee.
Mr Poots also unveiled David Hilditch as vice chairman of the infrastructure committee and William Irwin as vice chair of the audit committee. Pam Cameron will become chairwoman of the assembly and executive review committee’.
Further, RTÉ News said that ‘North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey has been appointed as chairman of the justice committee and Jonathan Buckley will take up the role as chair of the infrastructure committee'
DUP deputy leader Ms Bradley has been appointed as chairwoman of the Communities Committee and William Humphreys is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. The new appointments come as the DUP has been hit by a number of resignations.
South Down DUP constituency association chairman and councillor Glynn Hanna, his daughter Diane Forsythe, association member Richard McKee, and councillor Kathryn Owen all announced their resignations this week. The latest to quit is Upper Bann association member Roberta McNally.
According to The Irish Times, ‘Mr Poots has conceded that members of the party ‘have been bruised’ over its leadership election'
The Minister of Agriculture told the BBC’s Spotlight that it could take ‘a little time to heal’. According to PA, Reuters, Mr Poots said: ‘I think it is peripheral, but nonetheless I don’t want to lose anybody from the party,” he said. “I will be continuing to reach out to people to seek to ensure that we keep as many people as possible and to bring new people into the party.”
Having been a close ally of DUP leader, Edwin Poots, it was almost inevitable that he would be appointed as first minister as Poots, himself, did not indicate that he wanted to be first minister himself.
A lot of work will be required by Mr Givan to secure the approval of Sinn Féin, to form the power-sharing government. However, as acknowledged by Mr Poots, it has been a bruising leadership election for the DUP and divisions have been exposed within the party.
Whether Mr Givan and the DUP are able to secure the approval of Sinn Féin under the power-sharing arrangement, will be intriguing. If Mr Givan and the DUP are unable to secure the agreement of Sinn Féin, this may cause Northern Ireland Assembly elections to be held this year, instead of May 2021, when the next Assembly elections are scheduled.
If such a scenario were to arise, as it stands, in recent polls by Belfast Telegraph/Lucid Talks, Sinn Féin are in prime position to take the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections for the first time in its history, whilst the Alliance Party, under its leader, Naomi Long will make a breakthrough in securing more support for the Alliance Party. Meanwhile, chaos surrounding the leadership of Arlene Foster and the Northern Ireland Protocol have meant that the DUP’s support ‘has dropped to 16%’, according to Slugger O’Toole. It will certainly be an interesting week ahead in politics in Northern Ireland.