Northern Ireland news

Edwin Poots steps down as DUP leader following internal revolt

Edwin Poots arrives at the DUP headquarters in Belfast for a meeting of the party officers. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

EDWIN Poots last night resigned as DUP leader after a dramatic day of internal turmoil triggered by his decision to nominate a Stormont first minister.

Just three weeks after his leadership was ratified – following the first such contest in the party’s history – the agriculture minister asked DUP chairman Lord Morrow to begin the process of selecting his successor. He said he would remain in post until a new leader has been appointed.

Mr Poots’s decision came after what is thought to have been a tense and at times heated three-and-halfhour meeting of party officers at the DUP’s headquarters. The DUP leader had been summoned to the meeting following rebellion in the party ranks amid speculation he could potentially face a vote of no confidence.

He left the meeting last night declining to answer questions about his leadership. An earlier rancorous meeting at Stormont saw up to 24 DUP MPs and MLAs vote against the decision to nominate Mr Givan, paving the way for the restoration of the Stormont executive. Just four of the group backed Mr Poots.

Ian Knox cartoon 18/6/21 

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Despite clear opposition, the DUP leader persevered with his friend and ally’s nomination, which led to the restoration of the executive after days of uncertainty. The morning meeting had been called amid disquiet over the deal struck just hours previously with the secretary of state that would see Westminster legislate on Irish language if the assembly failed to fulfil the New Decade New Approach commitment by the autumn.

Brandon Lewis’s post-midnight announcement came after hours of intensive talks and paved the way for Sinn Féin to lift its threatened veto on restoring the executive. But it left many DUP elected representatives seething, as much at the manner of Mr Poots’s actions.

Heading into last night’s meeting in Belfast, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said any leader who did not have the support of party officers would “find it very difficult” to remain in the position. “You cannot lead people who are not following you. If you have no followers, you can’t be a leader, can you?” he said.

The embattled DUP leader declined to answer questions when he left the meeting after 8pm but a statement was issued by the party on his behalf shortly afterwards. It said Mr Poots had asked the party chairman to commence an electoral process to allow for a new DUP leader to be elected. “The party has asked me to remain in post until my successor is elected,” Mr Poots said.

“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.”

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “Whoever leads the DUP is a matter for that party. We have monumental challenges ahead that will require unity of purpose and urgency. “That is our focus and should remain the focus of all ministe

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