Paul Givan Elected as North Ireland's New Leader, First Change Since 2015

Paul Givan will replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland's first minister, marking the first shift in the position's leadership since 2015.

Edwin Poots, the Democratic Unionist Party's (DUP) newly elected leader, affirmed Givan's selection on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. The 39-year old Givan and Poots' other appointed ministers will begin work in their new positions on Monday.

"There is a huge responsibility that comes with this position, particularly in serving the people of Northern Ireland," Poots said.

Poots is a religious conservative who served as agriculture minister for the Northern Ireland Assembly in the past. His Christian fundamentalist and creationist views mirror the philosophy of DUP founder Rev. Ian Paisley, the Associated Press reported.

Poots prevailed in May's DUP election and previously announced that, as party leader, he would not also be taking the first minister post. He thanked Foster, who resigned from her dual posts of party leader and first minister in April following Brexit backlash within the DUP, for her "excellent work."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Edwin Poots
Paul Givan will replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland's first minister, marking the first shift in the position's leadership since 2015. Above, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin (right) meets with Democratic Unionist Party leader Edwin Poots (left) and Democratic Unionist Party MLA Paul Givan at the Government Buildings on June 3, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland. Julien Behal/Getty Images

The party, which is rooted in the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church, opposed Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord. It later became reconciled to it and has shared power with the Irish Republican Army-linked party Sinn Fein.

The power-sharing relationship has often been strained and the Belfast administration was suspended for almost three years beginning in 2017 after it collapsed over a botched green energy project.

However, it is Britain's economic split from the European Union at the end of 2020 that has really shaken the political balance in Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K. where some people identify as British and some as Irish.

Post-Brexit trade rules have imposed customs and border checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. The arrangement was designed to avoid checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an EU member, because an open Irish border has helped underpin the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

The new arrangements have angered Northern Ireland's British unionists, who say the new checks amount to a border in the Irish Sea, weaken ties with the rest of the U.K. and could bolster calls for Irish reunification.

Tensions over the new rules contributed to a week of street violence in Northern Ireland cities in April that saw youths pelt police with bricks, fireworks and firebombs.

Foster faced the wrath of party members for backing the Brexit divorce agreement that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck with the EU. She quit amid a party push to oust her.

Arlene Foster
Paul Givan will replace Arlene Foster as Northern Ireland's first minister, marking the first shift in the position's leadership since 2015. Above, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill (left) hold a press conference after touring the province's largest COVID-19 vaccination center as it opens at the Odyssey SSE Arena on March 29, 2021, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Charles McQuillan/Getty Images