Edwin Poots braces for string of resignations as DUP implodes
New Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Edwin Poots faces a string of resignations as Northern Ireland’s biggest party continues to implode.
It is understood that a number of DUP members, including elected officials, will quit the party this week as the fallout from the ouster of former leader Arlene Foster intensifies. “I will resign this week and there will be others as well,” said an elected official.
It comes as the Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI) is investigating allegations that the Ulster Defense Association (UDA), an illegal loyalist group, has made sinister threats to the campaign team of a leadership contestant in order to thwart the outcome.
Jeffrey Donaldson, an MP for Lagan Valley, said Mr Poots was in the process of being ratified as leader during a ‘eventful’ private DUP meeting in Belfast last week.
A party member who was present agreed that there was “legitimate lobbying” on the part of loyalists, “but what Jeffrey was referring to was by no means ambiguous.”
It is understood that the basis of some complaints revolve around “intimidating and threatening” messages sent to top DUP leaders close to Mr Donaldson.
According to sources, the words “you’re next” were among the alleged threats to members of Donaldson’s team, while other exchanges were by phone and email.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police have received a complaint that a number of members of a political party have been threatened during a recent leadership campaign.”
the Independent Sunday previously reported how UDA “dark figures” used intimidating tactics by threatening DUP members to sign a letter of no confidence in Ms Foster.
It was claimed that several loyalists had helped garner support by “reminding” some MPs that if they did not sign the motion their seats in next year’s Assembly election would be in jeopardy.
During Mr Poots’ acceptance speech, several prominent DUP members, including Mr Donaldson and Diane Dodds, left the meeting on Thursday evening.
In another twist, Ms Foster’s close friend and colleague in her constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Paul Bell, radically resigned from the party following Mr Poots’ ratification.
Mr Bell warned that the DUP would lose “thousands of votes” in recent events.
“We cannot bypass the gates, the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone will vote for anyone except the DUP. It is because, not the elections, but because of what happened before the elections, ”he said.
A divided party, a police investigation and several resignations over the next week aren’t the only issues Poots faces.
His choice of prime minister and how he responds to outstanding issues such as the implementation of Irish language legislation and the Northern Ireland Protocol will be closely followed by Sinn Féin, his partners in government. .
“It is important to remember that the majority of parties and executive ministers do not support his position,” said a source from Sinn Féin.
The source said the party had not ruled out refusing to appoint a deputy prime minister after Poots proposed the replacement of Ms Foster, who would be former Communities Minister Paul Givan.
He is partly blamed for the collapse of decentralized institutions four years ago, when he and his officials cut funding for an Irish-language initiative and forced snap elections.
“I hear September proposed for a potential election,” said another source.
In Dublin, Mr Poots’ first weeks will be closely followed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who is expected to speak to the DUP chief on the contentious issue of the protocol.
Speaking after his election as leader, Mr Poots said relations between Belfast and Dublin “are really, really bad”.
Meanwhile, the British-Irish Council will be held in Co Fermanagh next month, where Mr Martin, along with Michael Gove from the UK government and Nicola Sturgeon from Scotland, will meet with leaders from Wales, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey and Northern Ireland. .
However, who will lead Stormont remains to be seen as Ms Foster, who is still prime minister, threatened to step down on Tuesday – weeks earlier than expected – if Mr Poots names his successor.
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