Edwin Poots pulls out of north-south meeting amid speculation he will make a bid for DUP leadership
DUP Agriculture minister Edwin Poots, who is viewed as a potential successor to Arlene Foster, has pulled out of a scheduled north-south meeting with an Irish Government ministerial counterpart.
Mr Poots’ move comes amid recent uncertainty about the DUP’s continued participation in north-south political structures due to their opposition to Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.
The DUP has failed to turn up for two previous meetings in recent weeks but last week DUP Economy Minister Diane Dodds did participate in a planned economic development meeting with Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.
Mr Poots is viewed as more of a hardliner than Mrs Foster and his no-show on Wednesday is being interpreted by some as a signal of intent in the wider internal leadership heave against the party leader.
Stormont deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill criticised Mr Poots.
“Today’s scheduled meeting of ministers North/South on rural development and agriculture was cancelled as no DUP Minister would attend,” she tweeted.
“The North/South dimension is central to the Good Friday Agreement & there is no alternative. Put simply these hare-brained antics are juvenile.”
The Republic's Agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue tweeted his disappointment: “I am disappointed the scheduled North/South Ministerial Council meeting did not take place.
“This engagement is crucial to strengthening North South ties.
“I urge all sides to work together for the betterment of our farmers & wider communities. We work stronger when we work together.”