22:25 GMT05 August 2021
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    Arlene Foster resigned as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in April after months of criticism within the party. She has stepped down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and is set to be replaced by Paul Givan.

    Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has secured the agreement of the DUP and Sinn Fein over who will be the new First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

    The DUP’s Paul Givan was formally nominated as the new First Minister later on Thursday, 17 June, with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill resuming the role of Deputy First Minister.

    Arlene Foster resigned on Monday, 14 June, as leader of the DUP and her successor, Edwin Poots, has been trying to resist caving in to Sinn Fein and the British government on the issue of Irish language protection legislation.

    The British government had threatened to push through national legislation to protect the Irish language if the DUP did not agree to pass laws at Stormont.

    © REUTERS / CLODAGH KILCOYNE
    COVID-19 lockdown restrictions begin to ease, in Belfast

    Poots has reacted angrily to the pressure being exerted from London.

    He told the BBC he did not welcome the intervention by Mr Lewis and said: "I indicated that the agreement that was made…was something we were committed to and prepared to work through. What I wasn’t prepared to do was have a gun held to my head in terms of the timings of that and SF’s demand that I do that before the June 24."

    Unlike Foster - who was both DUP leader and First Minister - Poots is only the party leader and the new First Minister will be Paul Givan, who is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

    Democratic Unionist Party MLA Paul Givan looks at members of the media following a meeting with DUP party colleagues at Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
    © AP Photo / Peter Morrison
    Democratic Unionist Party MLA Paul Givan looks at members of the media following a meeting with DUP party colleagues at Stormont, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

    It remains unclear whether Poots and Givan are in complete agreement about the way forward but their hand appears to have been forced by London.

    Sinn Fein, the largest Irish nationalist party and the former political wing of the Provisional IRA, has been demanding special rights for Irish language speakers on a par with legislation for Welsh speakers in Wales.

    Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the British government had agreed to introduce such legislation at Westminster after the DUP refused.

    ​The British and Irish government are co-guarantors of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended 30 years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and introduced a devolved power-sharing government.

    But following the death of Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness in 2017 the power-sharing agreeement between the two parties collapsed with Foster and O’Neill unable to reach agreeement on the Irish language issue.

    Although a tiny minority of people in Northern Ireland speak or read the Irish language it is highly symbolic for the nation

    Tags:
    Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Sinn Fein, Good Friday Agreement
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