Christian creationist Edwin Poots is set to stand down as DUP leader following an internal revolt against him – just three weeks after being elected party chief.
A meeting of DUP party officers got under way at party headquarters in Belfast today, with the recently appointed leader facing a major heave amid speculation he could potentially face a vote of no-confidence.
The DUP appears to be in disarray after a majority of its elected representatives turned on Mr Poots after he reached an agreement with Sinn Fein on Irish language legislation to prevent Stormont from collapsing.
In a statement following the meeting, Mr 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 Mr Poots becomes the shortest serving leader in DUP history. He was voted in as Arlene Foster’s successor on May 14, following a revolt against the former First Minister by supporters of Mr Poots.
DUP leader Edwin Poots leaves a party meeting in Belfast tonight before announcing he would stand down from the role following an internal party revolt against him
Edwin Poots, leader of the DUP, leaves the party headquarters in Belfast on June 17, 2021
He was formally ratified as leader on May 27, meaning he officially served just 21 days in the role. His 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 Fein 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 Mr Poots pressed ahead with nominating his Lagan Valley constituency colleague Paul Givan as First Minister, after Sinn Fein 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 Fein 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 Fein delegations in Belfast.
DUP leader Edwin Poots during the nomination of Paul Givan as First Minister, in the Stormont Assembly in Parliament Buildings in Belfast
Many DUP politicians had warned against a Government intervention on such a sensitive devolved issue and they were enraged that Mr Poots was still prepared to enter a new coalition on that basis.
A meeting of DUP party officers got under way yesterday (thurs) evening at party headquarters in Belfast, amid speculation Mr Poots could potentially face a vote of no confidence.
Mr Poots left the meeting after 8pm, saying only ‘how are you’ to gathered media before being driven off in a waiting car.
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 Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Diane Dodds, Sammy Wilson and deputy leader Paul Bradley, refused to speak to the media as they left.
A statement confirming Mr Poots’ intention to stand down was issued shortly after.