Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan has announced his resignation from Stormont’s powersharing executive.
The move by the Lagan Valley MLA is part of the Democratic Unionist Party’s escalating protest strategy against the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
It comes 24 hours after Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots acted unilaterally to order a halt to agri-food checks required under the post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Civil servants have yet to implement the instruction and checks are continuing.
Mr Givan’s resignation automatically removes Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill from her job because, under Stormont’s power-sharing rules, one cannot hold office without the other.
Other Stormont ministers can remain in post but the executive can no longer meet and is unable to take significant policy decisions.
Mr Givan said: “Today marks the end of what has been the privilege of my lifetime – to serve as the First Minister of Northern Ireland.
“When I first entered the Assembly 12 years ago, I never expected to have the opportunity to lead the government and serve the people of Northern Ireland as First Minister.
“Holding this office is one that comes with a heavy responsibility and I have often felt the weight of this burden, to do what is right for all our people.”
Mr Givan served as First Minister for 231 days, having succeeded Arlene Foster on June 17 2021.
UK government Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said Mr Givan’s resignation was “extremely disappointing” and urged the DUP to reinstate him.
He said: “I recognize the impact the Northern Ireland Protocol is having on the ground. The UK government has been clear for some time that the Protocol has been causing serious problems, unbalancing the delicate and hard-won political stability in Northern Ireland.
“We remain fully committed to fixing the problems with the Protocol and to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions. We will continue our intensive talks with the EU in order to resolve these.”
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