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Donaldson in, Poots ‘eviscerated’

Donaldson in, Poots ‘eviscerated’ Banner

by Aiken PR


The seismic, unparalleled, and calamitous events that have dismembered party unity over the last number of weeks have, for now, gone just a little bit quiet

So, with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson set to be ratified by the DUP’s electoral college on Saturday before the party Executive meets next week, the seismic, unparalleled, and calamitous events that have dismembered party unity over the last number of weeks have, for now, gone just a little bit quiet. With Edwin Poots leadership, in his own words, having been ‘eviscerated’ and his pay masters and cheerleaders within the party disempowered, the new leader elect has been busy saying very little to dampen any catalyst that will once again spark the flames. That said this story is the proverbial runner, with legs and legs and then some, and the respite that we are currently seeing cannot last with so much to play out over the coming weeks and months. Jeffrey Donaldson will be keen not to fall into the pitfalls that Edwin Poots seemed to find at every turn. Yet despite the Irish language act, which ironically Poots has taken off the table for his successor, Donaldson faces the same issues as his two predecessors. Having already drawn a line in the sand linking the lifeblood of the NI Assembly to progress on the protocol, he is playing hard ball and seeking to appeal to dissatisfied party members and broad sections of the electorate. While there are those who see him already having backed himself into a protocol corner that it will be difficult to extrapolate from, he just may have enough wriggle room to manoeuvre, not least as he has stated that he plans to return to the Assembly, thereby resigning his Westminster seat, with his eye firmly on the First Minister position. But of course, we just don’t know how and when that will happen. Will he be co–opted, for or by whom, when would he resign his Westminster seat and what would that by–election mean for the party at a time of such fragility? While he will want stability within the Executive, and the party, how long will or can he allow Paul Givan to remain in post, with the young protégé busy making good ground on popular policy issues such as organ donation legislation? What changes will he make to the DUP Ministerial team, and what will happen to his short–lived predecessor? More questions than answers, but one thing is for sure he cannot make the mistakes that his maimed adversary made. He will consult, he will seek balance in the team, and he will use his nuance and influence at Westminster to push his agenda forward. Legislation currently progressing through Westminster which would enforce a 24–week timeframe between any Assembly collapse and an election, also strengthens the new leader’s hand should he decide to press the nuclear button giving him much needed time. While we all hope it does not come to an Assembly collapse, there is too much at stake, too many promises made, too much to be resolved, and too much hurt felt for this political respite to be anything other than temporary. Expect more, much more ups and downs in the coming days and weeks ahead.

A sharp rise in cases of the Delta variant in Ireland has called into question the planned reopening of indoor hospitality. The Taoiseach earlier in the week hinted that the date could be pushed back until later in July and the Tánaiste yesterday labelled the Delta variant as the “dark cloud on the horizon”. The Vintners Association have been critical of the government’s contradictory messages which they say have only added to the uncertainty. Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA stated yesterday “The Government has to make up its mind and come to a decision this week, they can’t reasonably expect the entire hospitality industry to wait until July 2nd for what their decision will be and then be in a position to potentially reopen three days later”. However, the government have stressed that only the data will be used to inform their decision and that decision will not be made until later next week. The cases are only going in one direction and only time will tell as to whether that will translate into hospitalisations, but it seems that it could well be another blow to the hospitality industry, some of whom have been closed for over 460 days.

To compound matters further, the Taoiseach announced that there would be no extra supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine until the third quarter, meaning that there could be a surplus of AstraZeneca and J&J jabs but with no one to receive them due to restrictions on age. Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said the Government is looking at ways to speed up the country’s vaccination programme and one solution being examined is to change limits on age guidelines, but this does come with an increased level of risk. It will be over to NEPHET to make the final decision but the stakes have been raised as a result of the highly transmissible nature of Delta variant.


Update on Health

• A total of 1,988,884 Covid–19 vaccines have been administered. Of that number, 1,152,720 were first doses. A total of 836,164 people have had both jabs.

• About 180 lives could be “changed” each year by a long–awaited law on opt–out organ donation in Northern Ireland, Health Minister Robin Swann has said. First Minister Paul Givan announced the legislation had been given approval to proceed on Thursday.

• The Stormont Executive is to divert funding of more than £30m in a bid to tackle Northern Ireland’s growing waiting lists. It will also see extra funding of £10.7m diverted to the Department of Health to cope with pharmaceutical pressures linked to Brexit.

Update on Business Supports

• More than £27m in Covid–19 grant support has been paid to large–scale businesses in Northern Ireland. New figures from the Department of Finance show that grants were paid out to more than 500 businesses.

• Finance Minister Conor Murphy said businesses, including retail stores, engineering companies, caravan parks and garden centres, all benefited from the scheme.

• The delivery of a £23m hardship scheme for sporting organisations during the Covid–19 pandemic has been criticised by the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

Update on Brexit

• The EU is set to agree to a UK request to delay a ban on chilled meat products from Great Britain being sold in NI. Products such as chilled sausages were due to be prohibited from Tuesday as a consequence of the post–Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol arrangement.

Update on the Media

• The BBC is to spend £48m transforming Broadcasting House in Belfast and investing in its broadcasting technology in Northern Ireland. Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general, made the announcement on Friday during a visit to Belfast.

Update on Politics

• Gordon Dunne, a former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MLA for North Down, has died, aged 62. He stood down from the Northern Ireland Assembly this month due to a serious illness – it is understood he had been diagnosed with cancer some time ago.

Update on Travel

• A paper–based vaccine “passport” could be available in Northern Ireland as early as 5 July, the Department of Health has said. It has also been announced that 16 areas have been added to Northern Ireland’s green list for travel.

Update on Legislation

• Northern Ireland’s red meat sector has been giving evidence to a Stormont committee on proposed climate legislation. It is opposed to the private member’s bill which would set a net–zero emissions target by 2045. The agri–food industry says that would disproportionately affect the sector which is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Update on Society

• Northern Ireland’s population grew by its slowest rate in more than 20 years in 2020, official estimates suggested. The growth of just 0.1% to 1.89 million was due to the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, said the Norther Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).


Update on Health

• The number of people in hospital with Covid–19 has dropped to 36 from 47 in the past 24 hours, the Health Service Executive has said. HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said that Ireland is in a stronger position as it faces the threat posed by the Delta variant, but uncertainty and concerns remains.

• As of 16 June, 3.45 million Covid–19 vaccine doses had been administered. The Irish health service chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said 61% of adults were partially vaccinated and 31% of adults were fully vaccinated.

Update on Economy

• The Economic and Social Research Institute is forecasting double–digit growth in the economy this year. In its latest Quarterly Survey, the ESRI predicts the economy will grow by just over 11% mainly due to strong demand for exports. The ESRI believes the recovery in the economy is well under way and will pick up pace in the second half of this year.

Update on Employment

• The unemployment rate, when adjusted for those on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, was 21.9% last month, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show today. The rate of 21.9% in May is down from a rate of 24.8% in April, the CSO said.

• Labour productivity in Ireland from 2010–2019 rose on an annual basis of 3.59%, according to a new report from the Central Statistics Office. The CSO said this compares to an EU average of 1.02% and a euro area average of 0.8%.

Update on Housing

• Over 200,000 housing units will need to be built in Ireland over the next three years, according to a new report from Davy. Its chief economist Conall MacCoille has estimated that based on the population growing by 240,000 over the past five years there is a “latent” demand for housing for which supply has not caught up.

Update on Brexit

• The Taoiseach has said an extension on the chilled meats grace period under the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is expected to be formally agreed by the EU, is a positive sign.

Update on Legislation

• Primary legislation will be needed to ensure that pubs and restaurants can serve alcohol outdoors. It follows ongoing discussions between the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General on the issue.

Update on Travel

• Aer Lingus has warned that the airline’s operations in Ireland will be smaller “for some time to come” and it “will take a long time to fully recover”.