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Who is Paul Givan, the man set to replace Arlene Foster as First Minister?

At 39, Givan would be the youngest person to serve as First Minister.
Jun 8th 2021, 6:28 PM 27,174 29

IN AN ANNOUNCEMENT earlier today, DUP leader Edwin Poots said Paul Givan, Lagan Valley MLA, is to replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland’s new First Minister.

There had been speculation for several weeks that the Givan, one of the key lieutenants of the new party leader, would likely be asked to take on the role.

At 39, he would be the youngest person to serve as First Minister.

It is understood that he had some reservations about taking on the top job, conscious of the impact on his young family and believing that it may have come along too early in his career.

Despite this, he had repeatedly made clear that he would take on any role that was offered to him by the new party leader.

He started his political career in Poots’ constituency and Stormont offices as a part-time assistant. He later worked as special advisor for the now-DUP leader when he was Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure and again in 2009 when he was Minister of the Environment.

In 2010 he began his assembly career when he was co-opted in the Lagan Valley constituency to replace Jeffrey Donaldson.

Givan had been serving as chair of the Stormont Justice Committee ahead of his nomination as Foster’s replacement.

He has been a somewhat controversial figure and is likely to be an unpopular choice among many nationalists.

Back in 2016, Givan was criticised by leading members of Sinn Féin when, as Minister for Communities, he cut funding for the Líofa Gaeltacht scheme, which allowed people on lower incomes to go to the Donegal Gaeltacht and learn Irish.

The email informing employees of the decision was signed off “Happy Christmas and Happy New Year” and led to Givan being branded an “ignoramus” by then Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

He later made a u-turn, stating that he had identified the funding necessary for the scheme and claimed his decision had not been a political one. However Sinn Féin has described this funding cut as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in the context of the collapse of power-sharing in 2017.

Before this controversy, Givan had been given credit for his praise of the GAA. During a highly publicised visit to a GAA club in Lisburn while he was sports minister in 2016, he expressed support for the new Casement Park GAA stadium project in west Belfast. He also paid tribute to the GAA and the “value that it brings to young people”. 

Givan, who is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church, which was founded by Ian Paisley, has previously supported Creationism. In 2008 put forward a motion calling for schools in Lisburn to teach alternatives to the theory such as Intelligent Design.

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In February this year he brought a private member’s bill seeking to change the law in Northern Ireland to prevent abortions in cases of non-fatal disabilities. 

Following the announcement from Poots today, Givan said he was “privileged and humbled to have the opportunity to serve our people in the days ahead”.

“When I first entered politics I never believed I would follow in the footsteps of Dr Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster. I am indebted to their service and sacrifice,” he said.

“The challenges are significant as we emerge from Covid and seek to rebuild our community and public services but our strength is in our people and I have no doubt we can overcome these challenges and build a better future for all our people.”

If Sinn Féin does not block his appointment and there is a smooth transition of power, Givan is set to take over from Arlene Foster next Monday. 

- With reporting from PA.

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Michelle Hennessy

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