Northern Ireland Executive 'moments from collapse' as First Minister Givan expected to resign

UTV Political Correspondent Vicki Hawthorne reports

A senior DUP MP says the Northern Ireland Executive is 'moments away from collapse' with First Minister Paul Givan expected to resign from the post.

Latest: DUP's Paul Givan quits as Northern Ireland First Minister

Ian Paisley made the comments in the House of Commons on Thursday.

UTV understands that Mr Givan will step down from the post at around 4.30pm and it take effect immediately, meaning Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill will automatically lose her position as deputy first minister.

"We're not months, weeks or days away but moments away from the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive," Mr Paisley told the Commons, adding that it 'was very sad but entirely predictable'.

Due to the power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland, the first and deputy first ministers are joint and one cannot act without the other.

The SDLP said the move would be a 'gross betrayal' of families and has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"The actions of the DUP leadership represent a gross betrayal of people in Northern Ireland," said SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP.

"Whatever community you’re from, whatever your background or beliefs, no one benefits from this cynical, and totally predictable, electioneering stunt.

"Resigning from government when people are struggling to provide for their families, heat their homes and deal with the cost of living tells you all you need to know about the DUP – for them the party will always come first and ordinary people come last.

"People deserve better than a choice between bad government or no government. That has been the cycle of the last 15 years and it has delivered nothing but failure. It is time to break that cycle and offer people a different choice."

The resignation is part of the DUP's opposition to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Senior DUP figures, it is understood, are to meet later to confirm the timing of Mr Givan's resignation statement. An statement could come around 5pm.

It is understood the other ministers - Gordon Lyons at economy and Edwin Poots in agriculture - will remain in their posts. But the resignation will mean the Executive can not function but the Assembly continue to work.

That would prevent the coalition from agreeing a three-year budget - a spending plan that is currently out for public consultation.

A planned official state apology by Mr Givan and Ms O'Neill to victims of historic institutional abuse, scheduled for March, may also not happen.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has repeatedly threatened to bring down the Stormont institutions in protest against the so-called Irish Sea border, introduced as part of the post-Brexit protocol.

Power sharing was restored in January 2020 after three years of suspension.

On Wednesday, Agriculture minister Edwin Poots ordered officials at Northern Ireland's ports to halt checks on goods imposed by the protocol.

The DUP has been approached for comment.

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