Taoiseach calls for political collaboration following resignation of DUP leader

Taoiseach calls for political collaboration following resignation of DUP leader

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. File Picture: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the resignation of now-former DUP leader Edwin Poots means politicians, North and South, must work collectively on the island, towards maintaining stability at what he called this “turbulent” time.

Mr Martin said Mr Poots’ resignation does not necessarily need to mean the collapse of the Assembly and fresh elections.

“We need to work to protect the institutions and our operation. It will not be a matter for Democratic Unionist Party in terms of electing a new leader. And then once that happens, I think we need steady engagement. 

"All of us working with one common objective what's in the best interests of the people that we represent. And I don't necessarily think there has to be any elections right now,” he said.

He said, in relation to the Irish Language Act and whether it was a mistake for the British Government to promise to legislate for it in October, that the issue is something that everybody's agreed all parties have agreed to it. 

The timing of its implementation has always been problematic, he said.

He said the Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis operated in good faith, in respect of this, and “nobody anticipated the outcome that subsequently happened”.

Coveney: DUP needs to be given ‘space’ to respond to challenges it faces

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the last thing Northern Ireland needs is for the DUP to be divided, and that the party should be given ‘space’ to deal with its challenges (Niall Carson/PA)
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the last thing Northern Ireland needs is for the DUP to be divided, and that the party should be given ‘space’ to deal with its challenges (Niall Carson/PA)

The “last thing” Northern Ireland needs is for its largest party to be divided, the Foreign Affairs Minister has said.

Simon Coveney said the DUP should be given “space” to respond to the challenges it is facing.

The party is looking for another new leader after Edwin Poots announced his intention to quit following a brief but tumultuous reign.

Mr Poots’ resignation, tendered only three weeks after he was ratified in the role, came after an angry party revolt against his decision to nominate a Stormont First Minister on Thursday

Mr Coveney told RTE’s Morning Ireland programme: “We’re back to square one, if you like, where the party has to find a way of electing a new leader that can unite the DUP, or at least attempts to.

“And that’s important for politics in Northern Ireland.”

He added that with the region facing “potentially a very tense summer”, what is needed is “stability and some predictability” in Northern Ireland politics.

Mr Coveney also said it is “hard to tell” whether Paul Givan will quit as Stormont’s First Minister following Mr Poots’ resignation.

“The DUP is remaining very tight-lipped in terms of their approach to the First Minister, and, of course, electing a new leader. Whether that will be by contest, or whether they’ll rally behind one name now, is hard to know,” he said.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens in relation to Paul Givan as First Minister.

“As of now, he is the First Minister in Northern Ireland. He’s been selected and elected yesterday into that position.

“But so much has changed in those 24 hours that you have to say there’s a lot of uncertainty.”

The Fine Gael TD said an election in Northern Ireland at this time would be too “divisive” and that all parties should work towards stabilising the political situation.

“What’s needed now is stability and political leadership as opposed to an election at a time of real polarisation and tension across Northern Ireland within communities and society,” the minister said.

“I think we have enough challenges right now, without a very divisive polarising election in Northern Ireland, but that is what could happen if political leadership can’t find a way of stabilising things in Northern Ireland,” he added.

Mr Coveney also told the programme that the Northern Ireland Secretary of State did the “right thing” by committing to passing Irish language legislation in Westminster if necessary.

“Brandon Lewis did the right thing here by committing to, if necessary, pass legislation in Westminster to deal with language and culture, as committed to 18 months ago in the New Decade New Approach Agreement and that the British government agreed to do 15 years ago if necessary.

“But the hope of course was that that wouldn’t be necessary and that the executive and assembly in Northern Ireland would be able to pass that legislation.”

He said Edwin Poots “didn’t like” the decision but “accepted it” but many politicians in the DUP could not accept it.

“This in many ways was a trigger, rather than the only reason for, for what happened yesterday,” he added.

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