A lot of this doesn't get covered in the US so it's been hard to follow. Apparently the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland is... imploding?

The interventions follows the resignation of Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillors Glyn Hanna and Kathryn Owen, along with others in the party's South Down association.

Mr Hanna said there was a "culture of fear" in the party and claimed he witnessed "bullying" at last month's meeting of the DUP executive, during which Mr Poots' election as DUP leader was ratified by party members.

Apparently this is all tied in some loose way to the resignation of Arlene Foster

Mrs Foster, 50, said she would step down as DUP leader on 28 May and as first minister at the end of June.

More than 20 DUP NI Assembly members and four MPs signed a letter voicing no-confidence in the leadership.

Except there was no letter?

She told reporters during a visit to the Strand Arts Centre in east Belfast on Monday that she had not seen the no confidence letter, describing it as “so-called”.

Can someone explain (at a high level) what is going on here?


1 Answer 1


Edwin Poots is the new leader of the DUP. He represents the hard-line, socially conservative branch of the party:

It was then he first came to prominence when he opposed the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement.

He faced criticism when he maintained a ban on gay men in Northern Ireland donating blood, despite the ban having been lifted in the rest of the UK.

Apparently the moderate elements of the party feel uncomfortable, ignored and/or bullied. This lead to some resignations and public statements of disagreement. There are concerns that under his direction the party risks becoming isolated and losing voters.

The internal political crisis in the DUP takes place in the context of major issues in Northern Ireland about the Brexit protocol. Previous episodes:

  • The DUP wants Northern Ireland to keep the same status as the rest of the UK, which implies no trade border in the Irish Sea.
  • The DUP was a part of Theresa May's coalition, and their condition made the implementation of Brexit even more complex. Essentially the only way to satisfy it and also preserve the Good Friday agreement would have been a "Soft Brexit", i.e. keeping the borders open between the EU and UK.
  • When Boris Johnson became PM, he clearly intended to implement a "Hard Brexit". He didn't need the support of the DUP anymore so opted for the Irish Sea trade border. The Brexit deal his government negotiated maximizes independence from the EU, with the disadvantage that this implies stricter borders checks on many types of goods.
  • Unsurprisingly, the implementation of the protocol lead to serious problems in Northern Ireland. The DUP wants the protocol to be scrapped, but it's not clear what that would mean: essentially it would be going back to square one about the Brexit deal, something that neither the EU or the UK wants.

Update 10 days later: Edwin Poots resigned today after only 3 weeks, the crisis at the DUP continues.

  • 4
    Aaaand he's resigned. :P
    – CDJB
    Jun 17, 2021 at 20:24
  • I wasn't aware of how non-mainstream Poots' worldview is Wikipedia: "Poots is a young earth creationist and rejects the theory of evolution.In an interview with BBC presenter William Crawley, when asked how old the Earth was, Poots replied: "My view on the earth is that it's a young earth. My view is 4,000 BC". - the acceptance of Creationism is a lot lower in the UK than USA, so a factor in making party members restive Jun 18, 2021 at 6:04
  • I would bet that creationist views are more common in NI than in the UK in general. Equally those views are certainly more common in the unionist population than in the NI population in general. This isn't to say that Poots views are those of the majority of DUP voters but there are definitely more who would agree with him there than in the UK population at large.
    – Eric Nolan
    Jun 23, 2021 at 8:54

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