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DUP's Paul Givan nominated to replace Arlene Foster as NI First Minister

New ministers are set to take up their posts on Monday.

DUP MLA Paul Givan
DUP MLA Paul Givan
Image: PA

Updated Jun 8th 2021, 5:01 PM

DUP LEADER EDWIN Poots has announced that Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan is to replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland’s new first minister

Poots unveiled the new team during a series of announcements in the Great Hall at Stormont today.

The new ministers will take up their posts on Monday.

Revealing Givan as first minister designate, Poots paid tribute to Arlene Foster, thanking her for “excellent work”.

Givan said: “There is a huge responsibility that comes with this position, particularly in serving the people of Northern Ireland.”

Poots also named Gary Middleton as junior minister. Paul Frew has been named as Northern Ireland’s new economy minister, replacing Diane Dodds.

Michelle McIlveen will be the new education minister, replacing Peter Weir.

Weir tweeted: “There are some great appointments but disappointed to leave education, and in the balance of appointments it is sad there is little sign of healing or reaching out.”

Outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster previously indicated that she would stand down when Poots named a new ministerial team. However, Poots said Foster will remain as First Minister to lead a British-Irish Council meeting in her home constituency of Fermanagh on Friday.

Strong reaction

Outgoing Stormont Economy Minister Diane Dodds has expressed disappointment in the new ministerial appointments announced by DUP leader Edwin Poots.

In a tweet, which has been retweeted by former DUP leader Arlene Foster and former leadership contender Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Dodds described the make-up of the appointments as “regrettable”.

“It is regrettable however that the new team announced today does not match the rhetoric about healing and bringing the party together,” Dodds tweeted.

Edwin Poots was later asked about the negative reaction of outgoing economy minister Diane Dodds.

“I accept that Diane probably isn’t in the best place today,” he said.

“I have been in that circumstance twice before where I’ve been a minister and I’ve been asked to step aside for others. And therefore that is a natural reaction.”

However, Poots said it was “inaccurate” to claim his team was only made up of his supporters.

“This team includes people who didn’t vote for me, who did vote for me and who didn’t declare their intentions,” he said.

Poots rejected allegations made by some resigning DUP members that there had been bullying and intimidation from members of his camp during the leadership contest.

When it was put to him that people may feel too scared to voice concerns about recent developments within the DUP, Poots said: “Let me just nail this thing about being too scared. This party is a party that will reach out to people and I, as a leader, am not someone who is either scary or bullying – I want to nail that absolutely and factually.”

If anybody wants to bring forward facts, they will be investigated, and they will be investigated fairly. I’m not standing for people coming forward with accusations without backing them with facts.”

Poots also reiterated his commitment to implement legislation for Irish language speakers at Stormont and all other outstanding aspects of the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal that restored powersharing in 2020.

“We have committed to implementing all of NDNA, including the cultural aspects, and other parties have received that assurance,” he said.

Poots said he did not expect the re-nomination process required to appoint Paul Givan as First Minister to be problematic.

“I can’t see why it wouldn’t be straightforward,” he said.

“Because the issues that the public are talking about, in particular the health service, recovery from Covid-19, waiting times in our hospitals of 335,000 – there’s a job to be done. We’ve all got a job to do.

“We’ve got a mandate to do that job. I will respect Sinn Fein’s mandate and I expect them to respect my mandate.”

NI Protocol

Edwin Poots has been a strong opponent of the Northern Ireland Protocol, insisting that it needs to be removed.

Speaking this afternoon, Taoiseach Michéal Martin said the “most effective way to guarantee implementation of the protocol and to resolve issues that people have with the protocol is within the existing agreement, within the joint committee, and in the engagement with Maroš Šefčovič and David Frost”. 

“We made this point to the British government that this is the most effective and best way to resolve these issues,” Martin said. 

The type of Brexit we have creates challenges all round in terms of trade between the EU and UK and clearly there are issues, I think, that can be reduced in terms of goods going into NI.”

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As an example, he said, the protocol “facilitates seamless movement on milk north and south”.

“We need to stand back, depoliticise this, deal with it as a technical trading issue, and get the outstanding issues resolved.” 

Other appointments

Poots began his reshuffle of Stormont posts by announcing new chairs and vice-chairs of a number of committees.

They include Christopher Stalford as principal deputy speaker and vice-chairman of the standards and privileges committee, Tom Buchanan as vice chairman of procedures, Keith Buchanan as vice chairman of the finance committee and Gordon Lyons as vice chairman of the health committee.

Poots also unveiled David Hilditch as vice chairman of the infrastructure committee and William Irwin as vice chair of the audit committee. Pam Cameron will become chairwoman of the assembly and executive review committee.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey has been appointed as chairman of the justice committee and Jonathan Buckley will take up the role as chair of the infrastructure committee. DUP deputy leader Bradley has been appointed as chairwoman of the Communities Committee and William Humphreys is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

The new appointments come as the DUP has been left reeling by a number of resignations.

South Down DUP constituency association chairman and councillor Glynn Hanna, his daughter Diane Forsythe, association member Richard McKee, and councillor Kathryn Owen all announced their resignations this week.

The latest to quit is Upper Bann association member Roberta McNally.

In her resignation statement posed on social media, McNally referred to scenes at a party executive meeting to ratify Poots as leader last month.

“Having been at the meeting myself, I also witnessed senior members telling people to put their hands down to enable the vote to be open,” she said.

“It was clear that those of us who did put our hands up were being noted. The arrogance of some senior members at the meeting was mind-blowing,” McNally said.

“I personally, until now, have enjoyed my time in the DUP and it was a great privilege to be elected onto the executive. I am extremely sorry to say that I informed the Upper Bann chairman of my resignation.”

With reporting by Lauren Boland

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