Leading article

Mature judgment needed immediately from Paul Givan

It would be fair to say that the circumstances surrounding the nomination of Paul Givan as Stormont's next first minister yesterday were extremely unusual.

The DUP has yet to clarify why Arlene Foster had to be so abruptly removed from office six weeks ago, and it has been well documented that some of her most senior colleagues have not so far felt able to discuss the matter with her.

A period of uproar has followed in DUP circles, with two departing ministers, Diane Dodds and Peter Weir, publicly criticising aspects of the promotions made by party leader Edwin Poots yesterday.

Their unprecedented intervention came after a series of high profile resignations at other levels in the DUP earlier this week gave the impression of a party in virtual disarray.

Mr Givan will also be acutely aware that, despite being named as the incoming first minister by Mr Poots, he cannot be certain that he will be confirmed in the role.

It is hugely ironic that Mr Givan was previously best known for his decision as minister for communities to remove funding from the Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme as part of `efficiency savings' in December 2016, announced in a message to colleges which ended with the words, `Happy Christmas and Happy New Year'.

His attempt to save a derisory amount of money through such a questionable move caused enormous anger, and he was swiftly forced into a u-turn, but the damage had been done, and the devolved institutions, which were already wobbling, collapsed within weeks.

Mr Givan knows that, unless he can now swiftly reach an understanding with Sinn Féin over Irish language legislation, another suspension could be looming.

If he manages to take a particularly deep breath and address these issues, his prize will be becoming the youngest ever first minister at the age of 39.

This would be a considerable achievement, which would provide him with the opportunity to make a positive contribution across a range of key areas.

He would clearly not wish to be remembered as either the shortest serving holder of the post or the last to be drawn from a unionist background, although both possibilities cannot be ruled out.

However, his immediate priority, and one which requires him to demonstrate mature political judgment from the outset, will be to ensure that he has the basic cross-party endorsement necessary to ratify his proposed appointment.

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