By Press Association
Edwin Poots is set to stand down as DUP leader in Northern Ireland following an internal revolt against him.
It comes just weeks after he succeeded ousted former leader Arlene Foster, meaning Mr Poots will become the shortest serving leader in DUP history.
Senior DUP figures gathered at party headquarters in Belfast this evening amid speculation he could face a vote of no confidence.
In a statement following the meeting he said: “I have asked the party chairman to commence an electoral process within the party to allow for a new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party to be elected.
“The party has asked me to remain in post until my successor is elected.
“This has been a difficult period for the party and the country and I have conveyed to the chairman my determination to do everything I can to ensure both unionism and Northern Ireland is able to move forward to a stronger place.”
Mr Poots was voted in as Mrs Foster’s successor on May 14th, following a revolt against the former First Minister by supporters of Mr Poots.
He was formally ratified as leader on May 27th, meaning he officially served just 21 days in the role.
His planned departure follows a dramatic 24 hours in Northern Irish politics.
Earlier, the DUP appeared to be in internal disarray after a significant majority of its elected representatives earlier opposed Mr Poots’ decision to nominate a Stormont First Minister.
A sizeable majority of MLAs and MPs voted against his decision to reconstitute the powersharing Executive with Sinn Féin in a bruising internal meeting, just minutes before the process for nominating Stormont’s leaders began in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Members are furious that Mr Poots pressed ahead with nominating his Lagan Valley constituency colleague Paul Givan as First Minister, after Sinn Féin secured a key concession from the UK government to legislate for Irish language laws at Westminster.
Many DUP politicians had warned against UK government intervention on the devolved issue and there was anger that Mr Poots was still prepared to enter a new coalition on that basis.
A meeting of DUP party officers got under way on Thursday evening at party headquarters in Belfast, amid speculation Mr Poots could potentially face a vote of no confidence.
Mr Poots left the meeting after 8pm, saying only “how are you” to gathered media before being driven off in a waiting car.
He declined to respond to media questions about his leadership and whether he faced a motion of no confidence during the meeting.
The remaining DUP party officers left the meeting at their headquarters at 8.50pm, all departing together.
All of them, including senior party figures such as Jeffrey Donaldson, Diane Dodds, Sammy Wilson and deputy leader Paul Bradley, refused to speak to the media as they left.
A statement confirming Mr Poots’ intention to stand down was issued shortly after.