Poots says he has ‘no intention’ of damaging North powersharing

DUP leader refused to be drawn on whether he had been behind the move to oust Arlene Foster

New DUP leader Edwin Poots speaking at the party’s offices in Stormont Parliament Buildings. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

New DUP leader Edwin Poots speaking at the party’s offices in Stormont Parliament Buildings. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The new DUP leader, Edwin Poots, has said he has “no intention whatsoever” of taking any action that would damage the North’s powersharing institutions.

“There’s no risk to the institutions coming from Edwin Poots,” the party’s incoming leader told PA on Tuesday.

Asked if he stood by the commitments made by the DUP as part of the New Decade New Approach agreement which restored the North’s Assembly in 2020, including an Irish Language Act, Mr Poots said: “I wish to see all NDNA commitments fulfilled, including the Military Covenant.”

Mr Poots was elected as the leader-designate of the party on Friday following the first leadership contest in the DUP’s 50-year history.

It followed the resignation of the party’s outgoing leader, Arlene Foster, who quit after more than 75 per cent of the party’s MPs and MLAs signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership.

Ms Foster is due to step down as leader on May 28th, and as First Minister at the end of June.

In a separate interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Mr Poots refused to be drawn on whether he had been behind the move to oust Ms Foster, saying that “people can speculate ... they don’t have any evidence of anything. What I need to do, and my focus, is on delivering going forward.”

Commitment

Mr Poots said he stood by his previous commitment that he would not take up the First Minister role, but did not rule it out in future. As yet he has not revealed who he intends to appoint, or given any details of the potential candidates.

It is understood he will not make any announcements until after his own appointment is ratified by the DUP’s Executive next week.

He has also declined to give any indication as to who might make up the DUP’s ministerial team, and spent Monday and Tuesday holding consultation meetings with each of the party’s MLAs ahead of his ministerial reshuffle.

In the interview with PA, he said he wanted to see a “fresh injection” across party structures, with more women and younger people in key roles.

“I want there to be generational change in the DUP,” he said. Asked if that would be reflected in the allocation of ministerial portfolios and committee chair and vice chair positions, he replied, “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.”

Questioned over controversial comments he had previously made in regard to the LGBT community, Mr Poots said he would “work for every single person in Northern Ireland, I don’t care what your background is.”

‘Heal and move on’

He also said he had asked for a one-on-one meeting with Ms Foster to clear the air, saying the party needed to “heal and move on” from recent events.

“Unfortunately politics is a very rough and tumble business, and it may be something which affects me at some point in the future as well,” he said.

On Tuesday Mr Poots also met the Northern Secretary, Brandon Lewis, at Stormont on Tuesday to discuss the Northern Ireland protocol, which he pledged in his election manifesto to “systematically undermine and strip away”.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Poots said his desire was “to get rid of the protocol ... the protocol in itself is something which is hugely damaging. I don’t know whether it is fixable.

“I don’t see that there has been the effort to create that fixing thus far. So my desire is the removal of the protocol.”

A spokesman for the UK government said the Northern Secretary had met with Mr Poots “and looks forward to continuing to work closely with him and other political leaders to continue delivering stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland.”