Givan asked when he will leave First Minister role during first engagement

First Minister Paul Givan visit to PIPS
First Minister Paul Givan visit to PIPS

Paul Givan carried out his first official engagement as First Minister against a backdrop of growing questions over how long he will be allowed to remain in the job.

Mr Givan, who was only appointed to the position on Thursday, was quizzed over when he would leave the post following a visit to the mental health charity PIPS Suicide Prevention Ireland in Belfast on Monday.

During the visit the Lagan Valley DUP MLA met with staff at their Antrim Road headquarters and saw how the facilities have been improved with funding from the Executive’s Social Investment Fund programme.

PIPS is a charity that helps people who have been affected by suicide or mental health issues.

During the visit, Mr Givan spoke to staff about his own family’s experience of mental health difficulties and the death by suicide of his grandmother.

First Minister Paul Givan visit to PIPS
PIPS executive director Renee Quinn (left) and the Rev Bill Shaw with First Minister Paul Givan (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Givan praised the work that the charity carries out and how it has adapted to the challenges of Covid.

He said: “Mental health issues can impact any one of us, at any time of our lives. It has touched many lives and, be extension, many families and many communities.”

Mr Givan then spoke to the media about the political turmoil currently enveloping the DUP. His appointment as First Minister on Thursday led to the downfall of party leader Edwin Poots, who had been in place for only three weeks following the ousting of Arlene Foster.

It was the decision to go ahead with his nomination of Mr Givan as First Minister after Sinn Fein struck a deal with the British Government to progress Irish language legislation, which led to the loss of support that forced Mr Poots’ resignation.

It is understood that Mr Givan has also been urged to resign by party officers when the DUP puts a new leader in place.

First Minister Paul Givan visit to PIPS
First Minister Paul Givan arrives for a visit to the PIPS charity, north Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

But he would not comment on when he may leave the post he has held for just a few days.

He said: “What I am focused on is meeting the needs which are important to people, my own personal feelings are secondary to the needs of Northern Ireland. I have a responsibility as First Minster to the country.

“Obviously the party has a process, which is now in place, it needs to be given the space to work through that process and for a new leadership team to be put in place and I will have those conversations with that team in due course. My focus is about ensuring that we have effective government.

“My personal feelings, that is secondary, the public don’t really want to hear about how I feel. What the public want is for our Executive to function.”

However, Mr Givan, who backed Edwin Poots in the party leadership battle against Sir Jeffrey Donaldson last month, indicated that he would throw his support behind Sir Jeffrey this time.

He said: “Jeffrey Donaldson has been a very close personal friend of mine for many years, a constituency colleague; as we all know, we share an office together and Jeffrey is a formidable politician, one who has a lot to offer Northern Ireland.

“I have spoken to Jeffrey Donaldson over the weekend, I have encouraged him to put his name forward, if he does he will have my full support.”

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