Edwin Poots: Powersharing not at risk under my leadership of DUP
Edwin Poots has insisted Stormont powersharing will not be at risk under his leadership of the DUP.
Mr Poots reiterated his determination to get rid of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol but said he had “no intention whatsoever” of endangering devolution.
The incoming DUP leader also said he wanted to see outstanding commitments in the deal to restore powersharing in 2020 honoured, including legislation on the Irish language and the full implementation of the Military Covenant in Northern Ireland.
Some within unionism and loyalism have suggested the DUP should be prepared to bring down the institutions if new post-Brexit trading arrangements are not removed.
The party has also faced calls to block planned Irish language laws while the political impasse over the protocol remains.
Mr Poots said he remained committed to all elements of the 2020 New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal.
In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Poots said: “There’s no risk to the institutions coming from Edwin Poots
“The damage that was done to the institutions historically has been from Sinn Fein. They collapsed them for three years from 2016 to 2019.
“That is something that was hugely divisive, did massive damage to the health service, because our waiting lists spiralled in that period and they would need to reflect if that is a route that they wish to go down.
“I have no intention whatsoever of taking any actions that will damage institutions here in the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
Asked if he stood by the commitments his party had made in the NDNA agreement, including legislation for Irish language speakers, Mr Poots replied: “I wish to see all NDNA commitments fulfilled, including the Military Covenant.”
Mr Poots has vowed to promote female and younger DUP MLAs into senior roles in his new-look Stormont team.
He said he wanted to see a “fresh injection” across party structures, reiterating a desire to encompass a broad range of voices in policy formation.
“There might have been a bit of staleness that had developed over the years, and we need a bit of a fresh injection,” he said.
Mr Poots said he wanted his ministerial team and the holders of key committee roles to be reflective of the “wider community”.
“I want there to be generational change in the DUP,” he told PA.
“I want to see more women coming into politics in the frontline.
“I want there to be younger people coming into politics.
“And that’s something that I will help to drag forward.”
Asked if that would be reflected in the allocation of ministerial portfolios and committee chair and vice chair positions, Mr Poots said: “Absolutely.
“I think that one of the things that I’ll be doing is having a bit of freshness and bringing new people on and ensuring that the party is reflective of the wider community.”
Mr Poots will not be making any announcements on his new team until his election as leader is formally ratified by the party hierarchy at a meeting that is expected to take place next week.
The incoming leader also insisted many of the 17 people who voted for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in the leadership content were now fully behind his leadership and had indicated their willingness to work with him going forward.