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As it happened: Paul Givan resigns as First Minister – DUP’s Donaldson says people must ‘have their say’ as Sinn Fein call for early election

  • Paul Givan’s resignation is effective at midnight, while other DUP ministers remain in post

A day of high political drama at Stormont has seen Paul Givan resign as First Minister of Northern Ireland and the potential of an early election, with Sinn Fein calling for one and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson claiming it is time for people to “have their say”.

Speaking to the media at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in south Belfast earlier, Mr Givan said: “Today marks the end of what has been the privilege of my lifetime to serve as the First Minister of Northern Ireland.”

In his speech, Mr Givan pointed to the “delicate balance created by the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements” which had been impacted by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Givan’s party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it was time for the people in Northern Ireland to “have their say”, in a speech following the resignation announcement and a potential hint to an earlier election than originally scheduled in May.

In a similar theme earlier, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald told the media gathered that an early election “must be called”, while Secretary of State Brandon Lewis called the decision “extremely disappointing”.

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Irish premier Micheal Martin said he is "deeply concerned" about the resignation of DUP First Minister Paul Givan, saying it is "a very damaging move".

Mr Givan's resignation, which comes into effect at midnight, will automatically remove Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill from her job because, under Stormont's powersharing rules, one cannot hold office without the other.

Other Stormont ministers can remain in post but the Executive can no longer meet and is unable to take significant policy decisions.

Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed he will remain in his post following the resignation of Mr Givan but said he is seeking "urgent legal clarification" over his powers to take decisions about Covid-19 changes.

Mr Donaldson confirmed he was discussing whether it is possible to grant the powers for Mr Swann to act on with an Executive no longer in place.

In his speech, Mr Givan thanked his colleague Edwin Poots for the “opportunity” and also paid tribute to his family, in what was an emotional touch on the speech at the end.

"I am a committed devolutionist. I believe we as public servants to the people that elect us are best placed to find solutions to the many challenges we face by working together.

“Our institutions are being tested once again and the delicate balance created by the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements has been impacted by the agreement made by the United Kingdom Government and the European Union which created the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“I want to thank Edwin for giving me this opportunity and Jeffrey who asked me to continue in the role when he became Party Leader. Most of all I want to thank my family, especially my wife Emma. It is often those we are close to in our families that feel the pressure, even more so than those of us in front line politics. It wouldn’t have been possible without their support.”

Party leader Mr Donaldson said it is "time for the people" in Northern Ireland to "have their say", in a nod to a potential early election.

"We will take our case to every county, to every town and to every village across this Province," he said.

"There comes a moment when we have to take tough decisions if we are to build for the future. Such a moment has arrived.

"Having already withdrawn my Ministers from the North South Ministerial Council, I warned that, in the absence of decisive action to restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK Internal Market, we would take further decisive action. I have given the Government and the EU more than enough time to act.

"The time has now come for us to act and for the people to have their say."

Earlier, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald told the media gathered that an early election “must be called”.

"In the absence of a functioning Executive an early election must be called," she told the media.

"We need to be clear the DUP actions have consequences, real consequences for people struggling with the cost of living.

"It is a matter of disgrace that the budget now won’t be passed and that investment in services such as cancer care and mental health are now in serious jeopardy.

"Today’s decision for Paul Givan to resign from the Executive is all about the DUPs own narrow and self serving political interests.

The resignation comes amid the party's protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol and follows Mr Givan’s colleague Edwin Poots' decision to order a halt to agri-food checks at Northern Ireland's ports.

Reaction to the decision by Mr Givan and the DUP was swift and came from across the political landscape.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie accused the DUP of creating a "manufactured crisis”, while Alliance party leader Naomi Long said the decision has potentially “dire” consequences for public services.

Here’s how the day unfolded:

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