The Democratic Unionist Party is set to begin the process of finding a new leader after Edwin Poots resigned last night.
He resigned after facing a revolt over his decision to agree a deal with Sinn Fein and nominate Paul Givan as first minister.
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Mr Poots, who was only in the job for just 21 days, said in a statement that he has asked the chairman of his party to trigger another leadership election.
His decision to stand down just three weeks after replacing Arlene Foster makes him the shortest lived DUP leader since the party was founded in September 1971.
‘A difficult period for the party and the country’
The internal opposition largely circulates around many DUP elected representatives disagreeing with Poots’ decision to nominate a Stormont First Minister.
In a statement following the meeting, Mr Poots said: “I have asked the party chairman to commence an electoral process within the party to allow for a new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party to be elected.
“The party has asked me to remain in post until my successor is elected.
“This has been a difficult period for the party and the country and I have conveyed to the chairman my determination to do everything I can to ensure both unionism and Northern Ireland is able to move forward to a stronger place.”
While he will remain in post until another leader is appointed, his resignation signals the end to a dramatic day in Northern Irish politics, and the beginning of longer-term debate about the Northern Irish assembly.
Prior to his resignation, concerns grew about an internal revolt and a meeting of DUP party officers got underway, in which they discussed the likelihood that he would face a vote of no confidence.
His resignation statement came after the meeting ended, though he did not say for the meeting’s conclusion.
‘How are you’
He was seen leaving the meeting, held at the party headquarters in Belfast, shortly after 8pm on 17 June.
As media predicted his resignation, reporters gathered outside but were met with a sobering “how are you” from Poots, before he was driven off in a waiting car.
He declined to respond to media questions about his leadership and whether he faced a motion of no confidence during the meeting.
The meeting continued for a further 50 minutes, before senior party figures such as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Diane Dodds, Sammy Wilson and deputy leader Paul Bradley left the building in silence.
Shortly afterwards, Poots issued his resignation statement.
A considerable majority of MLAs and MPs voted against Poots earlier on Thursday, as he proposed to reconstitute the power sharing Executive with Sinn Fein in a bruising internal meeting just minutes before the process for nominating Stormont’s leaders began in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Thursday.
Poots decided to press ahead with nominating his Lagan Valley constituency colleague Paul Givan as First Minister, much to the dismay of his colleagues.
The move came in the aftermath of Sinn Fein securing a key concession from the UK Government to legislate for Irish language laws at Westminster.
Many DUP elected members felt Poots should not have prepared to re-enter a coalition with Sinn Fein following the party’s willingness to involve Westminster in a matter regarding the Northern Ireland constitution.
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