Potts sits at the Stormont Assembly yesterday.
Source: PA Images
Yesterday in Northern Irish politics is rarely true.
It started with the DUP leader and not the first minister and It ended with a prime minister and no DUP leader.
This of course followed another whirlwind where a few weeks حيث Arlene Foster was ousted and Edwin Potts electedخب to succeed her.
His tenure as the party’s 50-year-old fourth leader lasted only weeks, but his departure could have lasting repercussions.
What could they be and what does that mean for power-sharing and indeed the broader political landscape?
Who will succeed Potts and will there be a vote?
The next morning the night before, there was only one name to be talked about as to who would replace Poots.
Representative Jeffrey Donaldson lost to Potts in the election contest by the smallest margins, 19 votes to 17, and He is the preferred candidate to replace him.
Member of Parliament Sammy Wilson has also been mentioned but Donaldson is the front-runner and probably won’t face opposition if he’s interested.
Donaldson was the favorite to win the electoral competition between them, and he reportedly predicted it himself based on an internal count.
On his way to last night’s DUP meeting at which Potts’ resignation was decided, Donaldson told reporters, «What a nice day.»
The Lagan Valley Member of Parliament has been described as perhaps the most moderate of the candidates, but the nature of the competition, in which there were no public conflicts, meant that the race was as much about personality and alliances as it was about politics.
With the internal Poots collapsing, the DUP is likely to put a premium on stability and another election may not take place.
Poots was chosen as the DUP leader by a vote of MPs and MLAs and this was the first time the DUP had voted for a leader. The latter may be in the foreseeable future.
Ian Paisley Sr. was the party’s founder and first leader, and his successors Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster took over after facing no opposition.
If Donaldson is chosen, this could be somewhat of a coronation for the MP being knighted The Queen’s Birthday Honor List in 2016.
– bbctheview (@bbctheview) June 17, 2021
Speaking on The View on BBC One Northern Ireland last night, former DUP MP Emma Little Bingley said the process for selecting a new leader was likely to be swift.
Sir Geoffrey Donaldson is perhaps the most likely candidate to submit his name. What I don’t know is if there are other people who might be interested in this. I think the party will want to settle down as quickly as possible. So I think what’s likely to happen is that the process will probably be shorter than what we’ve seen before.
She added: «I think the party as well as they looked at what happened in terms of that leadership campaign, there were elements of those obvious elements that they didn’t like and a lot of people do but certainly the next day it was a party that always worked behind closed doors and I think that will continue.» .
What happens if DUP chooses Donaldson?
Donaldson is on his way to last night’s DUP meeting.
One potential headache this may cause is that Donaldson is an MP in the House of Commons and not an MLA in the Stormont Assembly.
For one thing, this means that he cannot become a First Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive.
Donaldson could step down as a Member of Parliament and be selected to the Assembly at the expense of another DUP MLA who is stepping down, but this path is unclear.
Only on Wednesday was it confirmed that North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne will be stepping down due to ill health and He will be replaced by his son, so this potential path went to Donaldson.
However, maybe joining Stormont isn’t something he didn’t want anyway.
During a leadership contest in May, he said he «intends to run in the upcoming council elections» and that he «will take the position of prime minister».
This suggests that if he becomes the DUP leader, he may wait until he has a chance to run in the Assembly elections, scheduled for May 2022 at the latest.
Such is the chaos within the party at the moment, it won’t relish the prospect of its new leader having to run in an unsafe seat, but if an immediate election is avoided, it might give the party time to regroup.
In the meantime, though, the DUP needs to fill the role of chief minister to avoid elections, so if Donaldson becomes leader, he can nominate someone or leave Paul Gevan in his place.
Which leads us to the next question…
What happens to the new prime minister?
Paul Gevan during his nomination yesterday.
Source: PA Images
Potts essentially described Paul Gevan as his stepson when he nominated him for prime minister yesterday, saying he’s been his mentor since Gevan first entered his office more than 20 years ago.
So Jeevan is closely related to the disaster that was led by Potts, but whether or not this means that his position is doomed is up to be decided.
There are inherent dangers in the DUP being forced to stand aside, if they fail to come up with a consensual alternative, it could cause further division in the already fractured party.
Also, if Jeevan steps down as First Minister, this also means removing Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill from her position, as this is the interdependent nature of their joint position within the executive branch.
From the DUP’s point of view, this likely provides Sinn Féin with an opportunity to obtain more commitments as the price of avoiding elections.
Sinn Féin is in a more stable place than DUP and may welcome elections while DUP does not.
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Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill.
Source: PA Images
This influence is something that has served Sinn Féin to secure his approval from the British government that they will legalize cultural issues including the Irish language in Westminster, but this influence does not disappear with the departure of the Poots.
For these reasons, if Donaldson becomes leader, Jeevan may still be first minister. It may also be seen as a bit of an olive branch for Potts’ allies in the party, but it remains to be seen if that will happen.
What could this mean for instability and the Northern Ireland protocol?
After Sinn Féin was able to use his position to secure commitments about the Irish language from the British government, some in the DUP might feel that fear of executive collapse might force the British government to take a tougher stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Unionist politicians urged the British government to invoke Article 16 of Northern Ireland protocol to essentially bypass it.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously threatened to do so but backed down, with The current so-called «sausage war» The main front in the UK’s attempts to undermine the protocol without its collapse.
The DUP and other unionist parties want the British government to go further, but doing so would risk unraveling the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU.
Speaking this morning, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney expressed concern that if the election is the outcome of the past 24 hours, there is a risk it will be a «referendum on protocol».
The elections will be based on polarization and division rather than on changing politics, governance and dealing with problems in Northern Ireland. I think we have enough challenges right now without a polarizing, divisive election.»
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