Edwin Poots nominates Paul Givan as Northern Ireland’s new First Minister

DUP leader Edwin Poots has announced Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan as his nomination to replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland’s new First Minister.

Mr Poots unveiled his new team during a series of announcements in the Great Hall at Stormont on Tuesday.

Mrs Foster, who was ousted as DUP leader following an internal revolt against her, is expected to resign at the start of next week.

While Mr Poots’ choices for Economy and Education Ministers – Paul Frew and Michelle McIlveen – will take up their roles at that point, a renomination process involving Sinn Fein will have to be undertaken before Mr Givan assumes office.

When Mrs Foster resigns as First Minister, Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill is automatically removed from her post as well – as the joint office can only function if both positions are filled.

Both parties will then need to re-nominate their respective first and deputy first ministers within seven days.

If one of the parties declines to re-nominate, then a functioning Executive could not be formed and a snap election would become likely.

Edwin Poots announces ministerial team
DUP Edwin Poots leader announced his appointments at Stormont on Tuesday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Previous DUP leaders have all taken up the role of Stormont first minister themselves.

Mr Poots has broken with that tradition, explaining that he wants to concentrate his energies on rebuilding and reforming the DUP. He will remain as Stormont Agriculture minister however.

Revealing Mr Givan as first minister designate, Mr Poots paid tribute to Mrs Foster, thanking her for the “excellent work” she had done.

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

Mr Poots also named Gary Middleton as junior minister.

Mr Frew replaces Diane Dodds as Economy Minister while Ms McIlveen replaces Peter Weir in the Education Department.

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DUP leader Mr Poots paid tribute to the ministers who have been replaced.

Mrs Dodds expressed disappointment following the announcements.

In a tweet, which has been retweeted by Mrs Foster and former leadership contender Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Mrs 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,” she tweeted.

Mr 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.”

The ministerial roles will be designate at this stage, with the appointments post-dated to take effect from Monday.

Outgoing First Minister Mrs Foster previously indicated that she would stand down when Mr Poots names a new ministerial team.

But Mr Poots said Mrs Foster will remain as First Minister to lead a British-Irish Council meeting in her home constituency of Fermanagh on Friday.

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

British Irish Parliamentary Assembly
DUP MLA Paul Givan has been named as Northern Ireland’s next First Minister (Niall Carson/PA)

Flanked by the new appointments and deputy party leader Paula Bradley, Mr Poots named his new team.

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.

Mr Poots also unveiled David Hilditch as vice chairman of the Infrastructure Committee and William Irwin as vice chairman of the Audit Committee.

Pam Cameron will become chairwoman of the Assembly and Executive Review Committee.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey has been appointed chairman of the Justice Committee and Jonathan Buckley will take up the role as chairman of the Infrastructure Committee.

DUP deputy leader Ms Bradley has been appointed 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.

Edwin Poots announces ministerial team
DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley and Thomas Buchanan listen as party leader Edwin Poots announces his Stormont appointments (Liam McBurney/PA)

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 posted on social media, Ms McNally referred to scenes at a party executive meeting to ratify Mr 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.

“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.”