LiveLIVE UPDATES: DUP in crisis - Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill deliberately walk together side-by-side into Assembly chamber

In what could be her final appearance as First Minister for questions to the Executive Office, Arlene Foster, walked side-by-side with deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, into the Assembly chamber this afternoon.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 3:07 pm

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Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill (left) and First Minister, Arlene Foster walk side-by-side into the Assembly.

LIVE UPDATES: DUP in crisis - Arlene Foster walks with Michelle O’Neill side-by-side into Assembly for what could be last Question Time for her as First Minister

Last updated: Tuesday, 01 June, 2021, 14:48

Arlene Foster walks with Michelle O’Neill side-by-side into Assembly for what could be last Question Time for her as First Minister

Ahead of what was likely to be her last appearance in the Assembly for Executive Office questions, Arlene Foster walked into the chamber alongside deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

It was a proactive decision by the leaders to walk into Stormont’s devolved legislature together.

Poots denies receiving ultimatum nor does he expect to receive either

Edwin Poots downplayed suggestions the process of renominating the first and deputy first ministers – which will be triggered once Arlene Foster resigns – could become a political friction point, with speculation Sinn Fein could use it to gain assurances from Mr Poots on legislating for Irish language.

“Certainly I have received no ultimatums nor do I expect to receive an ultimatum, because we must remember the last time that the Assembly wasn’t operative our health waiting lists went through the roof,” he said.

“So we have now over 300,000 people on our health waiting lists – that is not satisfactory. And I can’t imagine that any of the parties wouldn’t nominate and wouldn’t want to ensure that the Assembly runs its full term.

“And certainly Sinn Fein haven’t put that to me and I don’t expect them to put it to me because the key important issues are around health, around the (Northern Ireland) protocol, around the issues that (Education Minister) Peter Weir is dealing with today, educational underachievement.”

New DUP leader hopes to be able to announce new ministerial team in coming days

Edwin Poots rejected the suggestion that his ministerial announcements had been delayed due to the internal rift within the DUP over the manner of his predecessor Arlene Foster’s removal.

“I’m working very extensively to ensure that we get the right team with the right balance and we will get a fresh injection as we go forward in that ministerial team, in that team of committee chairs and vice-chairs and so forth,” he told reporters at Stormont.

“And there will be lots of people who will be coming into the team who previously haven’t been utilised before and there’ll be others who will be utilised in different ways.”

Edwin Poots announces update to DUP ministerial shuffle

DUP leader Edwin Poots has confirmed he will not be unveiling his new ministerial line-up on Tuesday.

There had been speculation that Mr Poots would make ministerial changes at Stormont.

Following a meeting with the party’s MLA group on Tuesday morning, Mr Poots announced some internal DUP appointments, including East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting as chief whip at the Assembly.

Jonathan Buckley has been appointed Mr Poots’ chief of staff while fellow MLAs Trevor Clarke and William Humphrey have been appointed assistant party whips.

Paula Bradley, the party’s deputy leader, and Michelle McIlveen, the party secretary, are to take on new roles with responsibility for the welfare of DUP elected representatives.

Mr Poots described the moves as “initial changes” and indicated decisions on other roles, such as ministers, would follow in the coming days.

“There’ll be further announcements to be made in a number of days’ time,” he told a Stormont press conference.

Edwin Poots denied it had been his intention to unveil his ministers on Tuesday.

“I don’t know who said it but I certainly didn’t give any indication of when I intended to announce my ministers,” he said.

“That is something that I will do when I’m ready to do it.”

The DUP leader said he would be neither pushed into making an announcement or held back from doing so.

He added: “A course of work has been done in terms of my engagement with MPs, MLAs and colleagues.

“That course of work is coming close to completion and I’ll make my announcement in a number of days, when I’m ready.”

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