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Edwin Poots is resigning as leader of the DUP, after three weeks in the role

The announcement came after a crunch meeting with senior members of the DUP this evening.

Updated Jun 17th 2021, 10:05 PM

embedded260418340 Edwin Poots leaves DUP headquarters Source: Brian Lawless via PA Images

EDWIN POOTS IS set to stand down as DUP leader following an internal revolt against him.

A meeting of DUP party officers got underway today, with the recently appointed leader facing a major heave.

Senior DUP figures gathered at party headquarters in Belfast amid speculation Poots could potentially face a vote of no confidence.

The DUP appears to be in internal disarray after a significant majority of its elected representatives earlier opposed Poots’ decision to nominate a Stormont First Minister.

In a statement following the meeting, Poots said:

“I have asked the party chairman to commence an electoral process within the party to allow for a new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 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.”

It means that Poots becomes the shortest serving leader in DUP history.

He was voted in as Arlene Foster’s successor on 14 May, following a revolt against the former First Minister by supporters of Poots.

He was formally ratified as leader on 27 May, meaning he officially served just 21 days in the role.

Poots succeeded the ousted Arlene Foster as DUP leader only last month, after a quick coup that took Foster by surprise.

Amid the convulsions in the party she led up to until a few weeks ago, Foster tweeted this afternoon that she had had “a lovely lunch” and hoped “everyone is having a great day”. 

The manner of Foster’s ousting has led to recriminations within the party and the resignation of a number of councillors. 

The North-South Ministerial Council plenary meeting was due to take place in Co Armagh tomorrow. However, the government confirmed in a statement tonight that it has now been postponed. 

“Given political developments in Northern Ireland today, tomorrow’s NSMC plenary meeting has been postponed at the request of the Northern side,” it said. 

Dramatic 24 hours

Poots’ planned departure follows a dramatic 24 hours in Northern Irish politics.

A sizeable majority of MLAs and MPs voted against his decision to reconstitute the powersharing Executive with Sinn Féin in a bruising internal meeting just minutes before the process for nominating Stormont’s leaders began in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Members were furious that Poots pressed ahead with nominating his Lagan Valley constituency colleague Paul Givan as First Minister, after Sinn Féin secured a key concession from the UK Government to legislate for Irish language laws at Westminster.

A post-midnight announcement by the Government, committing to pass the stalled laws at Westminster in the autumn if they were 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 Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and DUP and Sinn Féin delegations in Belfast.

Many DUP politicians had warned against a Government intervention on such a sensitive devolved issue and they were enraged that Poots was still prepared to enter a new coalition on that basis.

first-and-deputy-first-minister-nomination Newly appointed First Minister Paul Givan makes his acceptance speech, in the Stormont Assembly in Parliament Buildings in Belfast Source: Brian Lawless via PA Images

A meeting of DUP party officers got underway this evening at party headquarters in Belfast, amid speculation Poots could potentially face a vote of no confidence.

Poots left the meeting after 8pm, saying only “how are you” to gathered media before being driven off in a waiting car.

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He declined to respond to media questions about his leadership and whether he faced a motion of no confidence during the meeting.

The remaining DUP party officers left the meeting at their headquarters at 8.50pm, all departing together.

All of them, including senior party figures such as Jeffrey Donaldson, Diane Dodds, Sammy Wilson and deputy leader Paul Bradley, refused to speak to the media as they left.

A statement confirming Poots’ intention to stand down was issued shortly after.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin, Rónán Duffy and Gráinne Ní Aodha

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