First Minister to Resign: early reports

Hot off the tail of DEARA minister Edwin Poots issuing a ministerial directive to halt all Irish sea checks, it is being widely reported that the First Minister, Paul Givan, is to resign today.

Under the rules of our mandatory coalition this means that deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, will also lose her post. Other ministers will remain in place, however their powers will be significantly hampered without the Executive Office having ministers. The Executive Office set the agenda for the Executive committee (effectively our cabinet), they deal with a lot of policy areas that cut across departments and most importantly of all the Secretary of State is under a legal obligation to either facilitate the forming of a new executive or holding an election.

Due to the scheduled election in May, the requirement to dissolve the assembly before this and the past reluctance of this UK government to call extra polls it looks like the Secretary of State could just wait until the regularly scheduled election.

Timing is key here, Jim Allister last night talked of how the “foreign rules” of the EU needed to be completely removed from NI law and governance. That is the fire burning under DUP feet, but is the tinder coming from Mr Allister’s vehement Euroscepticism alone or is there a ground swell of opposition to checks in unionist communities – opinion polls don’t suggest much evidence.

Whatever the case, this sets the stage for an interesting election and one based on crisis. There is also the potential, if the mandate now ends, that bills on the order paper will fall.

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