Edwin Poots prepares sweeping DUP reshuffle
Edwin Poots is preparing a wide reshuffle of not only the DUP’s entire ministerial team, but its senior members on Stormont committees and members of the Policing Board.
The DUP leader-designate was elected on a manifesto which was opaque in terms of how he will change DUP policy, but was explicit about his prioritisation of reforming the party.
Mr Poots and the party’s new deputy leader, Paula Bradley, were perceived by many of those who supported them in last Friday’s leadership contest to be the insurgent candidates who would radically overhaul the party, while Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Gregory Campbell were widely seen as establishment figures.
There have been suggestions from Mr Poots’s camp that he may seek to secure Arlene Foster’s resignation as first minister earlier than her preferred departure date at the end of next month.
Tomorrow the party is expected to set a date for a meeting of the DUP executive which will ratify his election as leader, and formally install him as Mrs Foster’s successor.
At that point, Mr Poots will become the DUP nominating officer and would have the power to remove Mrs Foster from her ministerial role.
However, one of those close to Mr Poots said that he was aware of her feelings and would seek to agree the timing of her exit, rather than act unilaterally.
Yesterday Mrs Foster faced MLAs for her biweekly question time in the Assembly. If Mr Poots moves suddenly to remove her, that could be her final time facing questions to the first minister.
Yesterday morning one of the incoming DUP leader’s closest allies, fellow Lagan Valley Assemblyman Paul Givan, said that Mr Poots had “made it clear that he wanted to engage with his colleagues in the Assembly before he would take decisions around ministerial appointments.
“And indeed this is going to be a much more comprehensive overhaul of the Assembly team because he is looking at every position – chairs of committees, vice-chairs of committees, and indeed Policing Board membership.
“Edwin’s focus is on engaging with colleagues; he always has wanted the best people to populate those positions and that’s what he’s going to do.”
Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Mr Givan said he had not asked for any position in the Executive. It had ben reported that Mr Givan was lined up to be first minister, but two sources close to Mr Poots said that was inaccurate.
Over the weekend, talk within the DUP was of North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey as a possible first minister.
When asked if Mrs Foster should leave earlier than she would like, Mr Givan said that Mr Poots wanted to have a team in place “to hit the ground running”.
However, he insisted that the new leader was “sensitive that when change takes place...that’s something that has to be handled sensitively”.
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