Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots is fighting for his political life in the wake of his failure to secure the nomination of his party in the South Down seat for the upcoming Stormont elections.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician currently represents the Lagan Valley constituency in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

However, the decision by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to transfer from Westminster and stand in Lagan Valley for Stormont in May gave the party an immediate headache.

It meant that three of the most important members of the DUP would have ended up fighting for what many consider to be a potential two-seat haul in the elections. The other member of the group is Paul Givan, currently Northern Ireland’s First Minister.

The Future for Poots

It was made known earlier in the week that Edwin Poots had made the decision to seek an official  DUP nomination in the South Down constituency.

But this initiative has fallen by the wayside, in the wake of DUP party officers opting to support Diane Forsythe last night (Friday, January 28).

A 38-year old accountant, Forsythe is from the South Down area.

Meanwhile, speculation mounts as to what Edwin Poots will do next. He might still push to secure a DUP nomination in South Down.

The possibility also exists that Poots could be put forward as the DUP’s candidate in an upcoming Westminster by-election, held to fill the vacancy created by Donaldson.

But given the current political climate in Northern Ireland, this will be no easy push for the DUP. The Alliance Party, in particular, would currently see themselves as having a very good chance of taking the Lagan Valley seat.

EU Audit

Meanwhile, Edwin Poots’ current ministerial inbox continues to fill.

An EU audit report to assess whether the system of controls in place for animals and agri-food products entering Northern Ireland at points of entry met the EU requirements, has recently been delivered to the minister’s officials

The report details the findings of the audit, which took place in June 2021, by officials from the European Commission and outlines a range of concerns which were substantially directed towards resourcing and infrastructure, as well as the lack of a functional customs control system.

The report made eight recommendations to address what it sees as the most significant shortcomings.

The timing of the report is significant as Edwin Poots has said recently that he wants to see all Irish Sea Border checks halted. Significantly, the minister believes that he has full legal justification to make this assertion.

This matter may well end up in the courts over the coming weeks.