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Will A Crisis in Unionism Become a Political Crisis?


On Thursday night the two main Unionist parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), elected new leaders.


Dough Beattie, a former British Army soldier, was elected unopposed to lead the smaller UUP.


In contrast, Edwin Poots was ratified as leader of the largest unionist party, the DUP, following a fractious leadership contest and a rancorous ratification process. The former leader, Arlene Foster, and other senior leadership figures left the meeting before Mr. Poots could make his acceptance speech.


Jeffery Donaldson, who contested the leadership, claimed that the UDA, an illegal unionist paramilitary group, had sought to intimidate his supporters.


Unionism has been unable and unwilling to come to terms with their loss of their majority status and their support for the disaster of Brexit.


The new leadership of Edwin Poots has refused to attend meetings with the Irish Government as part of the mandatory North-South Ministerial Council and failed to set a timetable to enact an agreed Irish Language Act. While the issue of who leads the parties is an issue for the parties, the election of a new First minister is an issue for the whole Assembly and will require the support of Sinn Féin.


Speaking following a meeting between Sinn Féin and the DUP, Mary Lou McDonald said,


“Today we met again and I told Mr. Poots that he needs now to confirm that those commitments will be implemented during the current Assembly mandate, as agreed by the DUP leadership.


There is also an urgent need for him to confirm unambiguously that the DUP will work in all the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement – the Assembly, the North-South Ministerial Council, and the British Irish Council instead of boycotting them.


"It is obvious that proper power-sharing and all of the other interdependent political institutions will only function based on good faith and an unqualified commitment by every party to honor agreements already made.


These are the critical priorities that the new DUP leader now must address”

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