Edwin Poots Resigns As DUP Leader

Published on 17 June 2021 at 21:45

After just 20 days as leader of the DUP leader, Edwin Poots has resigned as DUP leader. However, he will remain in the position of DUP leader, until a new leader is elected in a leadership contest.


This means that by a long shot, he is the shortest serving leader of the DUP, following on from the leadership of Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster. 


This comes after dismay and opposition within the DUP to the prospect of the passing of Irish language rights in Northern Ireland.


Meanwhile, there was a meeting this evening with senior members of the DUP with tense discussions on the leadership of Edwin Poots. 


The appointment of Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill as First and Deputy First Ministers today, was confirmed earlier today because Sinn Féin secured concessions from the British government, which would ensure that if the Stormont Assembly did not introduce Irish language laws by the autumn, then the British government would do so in October. 


The Irish Examiner said, ‘a post-midnight announcement by the UK Government committing to pass the stalled laws at Westminster in the autumn, if they are not moved at the Stormont Assembly in the interim, was enough to convince Sinn Féin to drop its threat not to nominate a deputy First Minister as joint head of the devolved executive.


The development came after a night of intensive talks involving the UK's Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and DUP and Sinn Féin delegations in Belfast’.


Following on from that, a significant majority of DUP assembly members voted against Mr Poots nominating Mr Givan as first minister, during a meeting before the special assembly meeting to approve the nominations of Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill.


Therefore, a vote was taken at this internal party meeting at Stormont ahead of the special assembly nomination process. According to several media reports, including the PA news agency, ‘Mr Poots and First Minister designate Paul Givan had left the room before the vote took place’.


According to a statement by Mr Poots, after his evening’she said ‘I have asked the party chairman to commence an electoral process within the party to allow for a new leader of the DUP to be elected.


The party has asked me to remain in post until my successor is elected. This has been a difficult period for the party and the country and I have conveyed to the chairman my determination to do everything I can to ensure both unionism and Northern Ireland is able to move forward to a stronger place’. 


In summary, the resignation of Mr Poots as DUP leader is not a significant surprise.


Division, whilst present in the DUP, in the last few months, became even more unprecedented division today as the move towards introducing Irish language laws by the autumn, as required by the British government, caused upset within senior figures of the DUP. 


It seemed that Mr Poots would face a no-confidence motion but this prospect appeared to end, by the resignation of Mr Poots as DUP leader.


Division all day was evident within the DUP and it seemed like a matter of when Mr Poots would resign as DUP leader, rather than if he would resign. 


It remains to be seen whether the position of Mr Givan remains tenable, or whether he also resigns as Northern Ireland First Minister. Often seen as an ally of Mr Poots, it is worth remembering that it was Mr Poots who nominated Mr Givan for the position of First Minister, having worked closely alongside him for many years.


It will be interesting to see which senior figures within the DUP put themselves forward for the position of the leadership. 


One likely candidate will be Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who lost out to Edwin Poots, in the recent leadership election, to replace outgoing First Minister, Arlene Foster who was ousted by her own party, following her mishandling of the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.


It will be intriguing to follow political developments in the coming days as political chaos in Northern Ireland has reached an even higher level. Whether this plunges the Assembly and power-sharing executive into collapse, it remains to be decided.

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