New Northern Ireland first minister installed amid turmoil in his DUP party

Threat of no confidence vote in party leader Edwin Poots

<p>Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill outside Parliament Buildings, Belfast, after they were nominated first minister and deputy first minister respectively, on Thursday </p>

Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill outside Parliament Buildings, Belfast, after they were nominated first minister and deputy first minister respectively, on Thursday

A new first minister for Northern Ireland was installed today amid open dissent among his own DUP party over concessions made to Sinn Fein in order to restore power-sharing.

There were threats of a vote of no confidence in DUP leader Edwin Poots, which could bring an abrupt end to Paul Givan’s tenure as the Stormont executive’s youngest ever leader at just 39.

All but one of the unionist party’s MPs and all of its representatives in the House of Lords signed a letter this morning voicing disquiet about a deal brokered late last night to permit the establishment of a new administration in the wake of Arlene Foster’s resignation.

Under the terms of the deal, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said the UK government would put legislation protecting the Irish language through Westminster if Stormont fails to make it law by September.

The move cleared the way for Mr Givan to take up the position of first minister, with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill as deputy first minister, later in the day.

The language issue had threatened to block the restoration of power-sharing, with Sinn Fein making clear it would not nominate Ms O’Neill to her former position unless the DUP agreed to press ahead with legislation which was promised in an earlier agreement but has not yet been delivered.

Mr Lewis hailed the breakthrough as “an important milestone in the delivery of our shared commitments”.

But DUP MPs and peers responded with an email to Mr Poots warning they were “very concerned about this development” and requesting an urgent meeting.

Mr Poots and Mr Givan attended a fractious meeting of DUP MLAs and MPs, but are understood to have left before a vote in which those present voted 24-4 against the decision to nominate a first minister.

The atmosphere at the meeting was described by party sources as “dreadful, utterly dreadful” and “bedlam”. Another said: “The meeting was in total disarray.”

And following Mr Givan’s installation, rumours began to spread of proposals for a vote of no confidence in Mr Poots.

Amid the turmoil, former leader Ms Foster seemingly took delight in trolling the man who forced her out of power, tweeting about her “lovely lunch” at a Belfast restaurant and adding: “Hope everyone is having a great day this lovely sunny afternoon.”

The new leader, who took office less than a month ago after Ms Foster’s 28 May resignation, later arrived at DUP headquarters for a meeting with party officers.

Arriving at the meeting, DUP MP Sammy Wilson did not rule out the possibility of a confidence vote. And asked if Mr Poots would survive it, he replied: “It wouldn’t be a final decision, it would be decision by the executive.

“I think that any leader who doesn’t have the confidence of party officers and didn’t have the confidence of their assembly group and their MPs will find it very difficult to stay in their position.

“You cannot lead people who are not following you. If you have no followers, you can’t be a leader, can you?”

Mr Wilson made it clear that Mr Givan’s position would be in doubt if Mr Poots was toppled.

“If Edwin is no longer leader, then whoever did become leader would have the choice of the first minister,” said Mr Wilson. “These are all decisions we have got to make.”

And he added: “The one thing I can tell you is that there is no appetite for a situation where we have an assembly which can have its powers stripped from it by the secretary of state at a whim simply because Sinn Fein demand that they get something that they can’t persuade others in the assembly to deliver for them.”

Party chair Lord Morrow told reporters they would have to “wait and see” whether there would be a vote of no confidence in Mr Poots.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in