This is obviously a fast moving situation but as of now we understand, as broken by Stephen Nolan on his morning show, that First Minister Paul Givan will resign his post today at 4:30pm, effective immediately. This follows quickly on the heels of Minister for Agriculture, former DUP leader Edwin Poots, ordering an end to agri-food checks at ports as of midnight last night (or is it this morning? I never understood that).
A spokesperson from DAERA stated told the Irish Times this morning that “The Minister has received senior counsel advice and has issued an instruction on that basis.” though it is understood that trucks were still being processed as of 6am this morning. Simon Coveney, the Irish Govt’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has condemned the move as a “breach of international law”, something which the UK Government doesn’t seem too concerned with.
These machinations by the DUP, spurred on by their complete bottling of their 2019 general election performance, and their deterioration in the polls, have been orchestrated by newly installed leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, who has talked himself into a corner.
The inability of the DUP to get any concessions from Brussels on renegotiation of the NI Protocol, their loss of a veto in Stormont, their loss of influence in Westminster (as seen last week when the Prime Minister appeared to scupper any plans to reintroduce double-jobbing for Westminster and the Assembly) as well as their continuing ramping up of threats to pull down the devolved institutions have left them with no other choice but to kick their biggest opponent out of Government, along with their own Ministers.
Now technically the Assembly can still function but the Executive, composed of five of the main parties, cannot meet as there won’t be a First or Deputy First Minister to chair any meetings. A plethora of parliamentary processes on current legislation will be halted, and months of work will be thrown under the bus, not least to say the many hundreds of thousands of people here who will be impacted by the collapse of the devolved institutions in the middle of the worst public health crisis in the history of this place.
As detailed by many on social media over the last few hours, there are a number of delicate pieces of legislation, and Executive responsibilities that are due to have their Final Stages debated in the next few weeks, and could possibly fall completely if the institution is mothballed. Amongst these are bills relating to integrated education, protection from stalking, climate change, domestic violence, adoption, abortion, human trafficking, period poverty etc.
An estimated 280,000 people will miss out on a £200 fuel poverty payment, in the middle of one of the worst cost of living crises in living memory. Victims of historical institutional abuse, who were expecting an apology for what they were subjected to as children, may now not get that simple, but much needed redress from the state. Welfare mitigations to stave off deprivation for thousands will likely be lost in the chaos, as will the violence against women strategy, the appointment of a Victims Commissioner, as well as the remaining COVID restrictions which have always been referred to the full Executive for ratification.
These stunts are not some clever device that the DUP have devised, and decided to pull in order to get some far reaching, better deal for the people of this place. It is, in fact, the only move they have left after months of threatening to do it. It’s hard to see how they can go back into the Executive at any point in the near future if they don’t manage to get those concessions, and alternative solutions to the NI Protocol have been flatly rejected by the EU. There is nothing to be gained here apart from chaos, misery, and an unending pantomime of toys being thrown out of the pram in order to save face. The NI Protocol is the result of the DUP’s own push for a hard Brexit. For a brief shining moment the DUP were the most powerful and influential political organisation in the whole of Europe. They could have demanded a bridge from Larne to the Moon and Theresa May would have agreed to it had they backed her deal, but they overplayed their hand and now they have no more cards in their deck.
This is where
Stephen Donnan-Dalzell is a freelance writer, commentator and LGBT activist. Working in mental health & addictions. They/Them