Majority of DUP MLAs and MPs vote against Edwin Poots’s decision to nominate First Minister

It is understood a significant majority of DUP MLAs and MPs have voted against Edwin Poots’s decision to nominate a Stormont First Minister.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 1:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 3:01 pm

The vote was taken after a heated internal party meeting at Parliament Buildings ahead of the nomination process in the Assembly.

The PA news agency understands that Mr Poots and First Minister designate Paul Givan had left the room before the vote took place.

One senior party source at the meeting described the atmosphere to PA.

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DUP Leader Edwin Poots. Photo: PA Wire

“Dreadful. Utterly dreadful. Never experienced the like of it,” said the source.

A DUP source described the internal meeting as a “total shambles”.

Party MPs had been invited to participate in a separate virtual briefing by Edwin Poots at 11.30am but it is understood three of them – Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Gavin Robinson and Sammy Wilson – turned up to the MLA meeting in the members’ dining room at 11.15am without being formally invited.

Heated exchanges apparently ensued.

New DUP leader, Edwin Poots (right) and Paul Givan, MLA.

Several MLAs rose to their feet to voice objections to nominating before Mr Wilson spoke shortly before 12pm.

At that point it is understood Mr Poots and Mr Givan left to participate in the nomination process in the Assembly.

Senior DUP MPs and peers had written to party leader Edwin Poots expressing concern and urging him not to nominate a First Minister until he consulted with them, the PA news agency understands.

The email, a copy of which has been seen by PA, was signed by defeated leadership candidate Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, party chairman Lord Morrow, senior MPs Sammy Wilson, Gregory Campbell and Gavin Robinson, former deputy leader Lord Dodds and a number of other senior members.

In total seven of the DUP’s eight MPs signed the email, with Ian Paisley being the exception. The party’s five peers have also signed.

Many of those who signed the document would have supported Sir Jeffrey in his leadership bid, though some, like MP Paul Girvan, supported Mr Poots’ candidacy.

The email, which was marked urgent, was sent to Mr Poots shortly before 10am.

The email sent by DUP MPs and peers to Mr Poots reads: “We note the announcement made by the Secretary of State in the early hours of this morning that both you and the Sinn Fein leadership have agreed to nominate a First Minister and deputy First Minister on the basis that Westminster will legislate on the Irish language and other matters if the Assembly fails to do so by October. We are also in receipt of your email this morning regarding this agreement.

“We are very concerned about this development and therefore, are urgently requesting that you meet with us as DUP Members of Parliament and peers to explain the basis of your agreement with the Secretary of State and Sinn Fein before any further steps are taken in this process, including the nomination of a First Minister. Assuming you will have prior consultation with your Assembly Group, we would be happy to join this meeting.

“You have often spoken of the need for accountability and transparency within our party and it is now essential that you consult with us as representatives of the people of Northern Ireland before you proceed further. We look forward to hearing from you thereto.”

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