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THE Northern Ireland assembly has been plunged into further disarray after the newly appointed First Minister Paul Givan was told late on Friday that he must resign in a reshuffle.
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) officials made it clear that Mr Givan is expected to step aside once a replacement has been found for party leader Edwin Poots, who quit less then three weeks after taking up the post.
The party has set a deadline of June 26 to find a replacement, with Lagan Valley MP Jerry Donaldson, who lost the nomination in May to Mr Poots by two votes, the front-runner for the job.
Once the new leader is in post and Mr Givan resigns, both the DUP and Sinn Fein will have just seven days to renominate the first and deputy ministers to avoid the collapse of the Stormont executive.
Mr Poots was forced to stand down after internal opposition from MPs and assembly members to agreement over the implementation of an Irish language Act, which was part of a deal struck 18 months ago with Sinn Fein.
Extra pressure on the DUP has come from the Loyalist Communities Council, an umbrella group of paramilitary organisations that includes the Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando.
It has called on the next DUP leader to collapse the power-sharing agreement to “stop the constant flow of concessions to Sinn Fein.”
And in a statement, the paramilitary gangs warned that Irish government ministers and officials are “no longer welcome in Northern Ireland.”
Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill urged the DUP to “get their act together” to ensure the north of Ireland has an effective and functioning administration.
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