DUP withdrawal from First Minister post ‘very damaging to politics’ – Martin

Martin criticises Donaldson remarks and asserts no party should have veto on Executive

NI First Minister Paul Givan has resigned from Stormont’s powersharing Executive. It follows the DUP’s ongoing protest against the Northern Ireland protocol, which led Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots, to order a ban on post-Brexit checks at ports.

The Taoiseach on Friday night strongly criticised the DUP's decision to resign from the post of First Minister in Northern Ireland, which he said was "very damaging to politics itself and to people's trust in politics".

He also criticised comments on Friday by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson that cast doubt over whether the DUP would go back into government after an election if issues in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol were not addressed.

“If the protocol issues are not resolved by the time of the election, then of course it is difficult for us to form a government because of the instability that the protocol creates,” Mr Donaldson told the BBC.

“No one party should use language like ‘unless we are fully satisfied we will not be participating’,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.


Speaking to reporters in Dublin, he emphasised his support for the North’s political institutions and said people wanted them to work. “No one party should have a veto over whether an Executive exists or continues on, and likewise the Assembly.”

He said negotiations on the protocol were continuing between the EU and the UK and progress had been made. “The conclusion of those should have been awaited in my view by the DUP.”

The Northern Ireland protocol is a part of the EU-UK Brexit withdrawal agreement guaranteeing a special post-Brexit trading status for the North in order to avoid a hard Border in Ireland.

DUP campaign

The DUP First Minister, Paul Givan, announced his resignation on Thursday as part of his party's campaign against the Northern Ireland protocol.

As a consequence of the move, the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, also ceased to hold office. Ministers now cannot sit in the Northern Ireland Executive and the Executive is unable to take significant policy decisions.

It has also thrown doubt over whether an official apology to the victims of historical institutional abuse, which was due to be delivered by the First and Deputy First Ministers next month, can now take place.

The leaders of the DUP, Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance met virtually on Friday to discuss how to speed up the progress of almost 30 outstanding Bills which are currently making their way through the Assembly. They agreed the party whips will meet to continue the work next week.

An Assembly election is due to take place in the North in May, but the DUP and Sinn Féin have called for an earlier poll.

Asked by The Irish Times if the Northern Ireland Secretary was minded to bring the election date forward, a British government spokesman said “our immediate priority is to restore political stability in Northern Ireland at the earliest possible moment”.

Order blocked

Meanwhile, a High Court judge in Belfast on Friday blocked the order given by the North's Minister for Agriculture, the DUP's Edwin Poots, earlier this week to halt post-Brexit checks at Northern Ireland's ports.

Mr Justice Colton issued an interim order suspending Mr Poots's direction following two separate applications for judicial reviews – by an unidentified member of Sinn Féin and another individual – into the decision.

He confirmed that inspections on the agrifood goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain must continue pending the outcome of the legal challenges, which are expected to be heard next month.

“There shouldn’t be any doubt or confusion hanging over those civil servants who have to comply with the law,” the judge said.

“I propose to make an order, suspending the order or instruction given by the Minister for Agriculture until further order of this court or completion of these proceedings.” Additional reporting: PA

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times