DUP reshuffle as Jeffrey Donaldson discusses Protocol with Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald
PAUL Givan is set to remain as First Minister when Sir Jeffrey Donaldson reshuffles his Stormont team today.
The new DUP leader will make minimal changes to his ministerial line-up ahead of the Assembly rising for summer recess. It’s understood a more extensive reshuffle will happen in the autumn.
Previously, Edwin Poots appointed Michelle McIlveen as Education Minister, Paul Frew as Economy Minister, and Gary Middleton as junior minister in The Executive Office while he himself kept the agriculture portfolio.
It is understood that at least one minister will lose their position, and if Mr Poots remains in agriculture, Mr Frew is the favourite to be removed.
Some sources are tipping Gordon Lyons as a potential appointment.
Mr Givan is viewed as having done an excellent job in trying circumstances over the past three weeks. Just hours after his nomination by Mr Poots, his friend and mentor was forced to resign.
A fortnight ago, Mr Givan gave his approval for the introduction of a soft opt-out on organ donation, meaning people automatically became donors unless they specifically say otherwise.
The First Minister’s first official duty was to visit the suicide prevention charity PIPs in north Belfast. He spoke about his own family’s experience of mental health difficulties and the death by suicide of his grandmother.
Many who supported Sir Jeffrey’s leadership bid have long been critical of Mr Givan, but his ability has ensured he will remain in place at least until the autumn. If Sir Jeffrey resigns his Westminster seat and is co-opted into the Assembly, then he will become First Minister in September.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said she had a “constructive and frank” first face-to-face meeting with Sir Jeffrey at Stormont yesterday.
Ms McDonald said: “We spoke about the Protocol and unionist concerns in respect of it, of course Brexit was from the get-go a very bad idea, the Protocol and the protections contained in it are necessary mitigations against Brexit and the Protocol is here to stay."
She added: “The Protocol certainly cannot be used as a pretext to cause instability or place a question mark on the proper functioning of the Executive or Assembly here or indeed the North South Ministerial Council.”
Speaking a week before the Twelfth marches, Ms McDonald said she had urged the DUP to ensure events remain peaceful.
“Now is a moment for leadership, I think it is absolutely essential that leaders lead in a way that ensures we have a safe summer for everyone,” she said.
"Any attempts to ratchet up tensions in interface areas or anywhere else is unacceptable, and I think it is important that political leaders across the board say that loudly and very, very clearly.”
Speaking after the meeting, Sir Jeffrey said their parties had totally different views on the Protocol but he said they had discussed other issues “where work can be undertaken for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland” and had agreed to “keep an open channel of communication”.