Northern Ireland

Former DUP minister Edwin Poots' unlawful order to stop protocol-related checks criticised

Former DUP agriculture minister Edwin Poots. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Former DUP agriculture minister Edwin Poots. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Former DUP agriculture minister Edwin Poots. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

FORMER DUP minister Edwin Poots' unlawful order to stop protocol-related checks has been criticised by a white collar trade union leader.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, which represents senior and middle management in the public sector, said the former agriculture minister "acted in complete contravention of his obligations" when he sought withdraw staff tasked with carrying out Irish Sea border checks.

The comments relate to last month's High Court ruling, which described Mr Poots' move in February last year as an "overtly political" decision.

The former DUP leader has yet to comment on the court ruling, the costs of which is likely to be burdened by the taxpayer.

The former minister had contended that he needed approval of fellow Stormont ministers to implement the checks. However, Mr Justice Colton found consent from ministerial colleagues was not required.

Mr Penman said the court's recently published judgment made clear that Mr Poots "acted in complete contravention of his obligations as a minister to uphold the rule of law".

“Not only did Poots ignore his own obligations under the ministerial code, but he failed in his responsibility to ensure that civil servants never face the dilemma of whether to act on ministerial instruction or uphold the rule of law," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The impartiality and integrity of the civil service needs to be protected by ministers, and his failure to do so has also opened up accusations of political bias, which has such serious consequences in the context of the volatile political situation in Northern Ireland.

"This damning judgment ....should serve notice to ministers in the future that power comes with responsibility, not least to uphold the rule of law — however politically inconvenient that may be."