Northern Ireland’s major political parties agreed on Thursday to support a replacement for former First Minister Arlene Foster, averting a new political crisis in the British-run province that threatened to lead to a snap election.
Foster resigned from her position as head of the Democratic Unionist Party on Monday (DUP). Edwin Poots, her successor, is attempting to propose his social conservative colleague Paul Givan to take over as first minister, and has until Monday to obtain the backing of other parties in the power-sharing government.
Sinn Fein, Ireland’s largest nationalist party, insists on the nomination being accompanied by the execution of the cultural components of a political deal reached by London and Dublin that reinstated the executive early last year after three years without one.
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed the British government decided to provide these rights through legislation in the London parliament after the DUP refused to do so in Belfast.
Sinn Fein will therefore participate fully in the five-party executive, McDonald said in a statement, clearing the way for Givan to become first minister.
The British and Irish government, co-guarantors of the 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and introduced devolved government, welcomed the agreement between the two parties.
Britain’s Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said on Twitter that he expected the ratification of the new first minister to take place later on Thursday.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Michael Perry