The new DUP leaderhas said he will announce his new ministerial team “when I’m ready to do it”.
Mr Poots, who was ratified as the party leader following an acrimonious meeting of the party’s executive inon Thursday, had previously indicated that he could reveal a reshuffle as early as Tuesday.
Instead he announced several backroom appointments following a meeting with DUP MLAs aton Tuesday morning.
“I will not be pushed into doing it, nor will I be held back from doing it … a course of work is being done in terms of my engagement with MPs, MLAs and colleagues, that course of work is coming close to completion and I’ll make my announcement in a number of days when I’m ready,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Asked if the delay was down to divisions within the party and attempts to heal that divide, Mr Poots replied “absolutely not”, adding that he was “working very extensively to ensure that we get the right team with the right balance.”
He also rejected the suggestion that the delay was down to behind-the-scenes negotiations with Sinn Féin in order to avoid a potential political crisis amid calls from the party that the DUP must follow through on commitments made to deliver Irish language legislation.
“Certainly, I have received no ultimatums nor do I expect to receive an ultimatum, because we must remember the last time that the Assembly wasn’t operative our health waiting lists went through the roof,” Mr Poots said.
“So we have now over 300,000 people on the health waiting lists, that is not satisfactory, and I can’t imagine that any of the parties wouldn’t nominate and wouldn’t want to ensure that the Assembly runs its full term.
“Certainly Sinn Féin haven’t put that to me and I don’t expect them to put it to me because the key important issues are around health, around the [Northern Ireland] protocol, around the issues that [the Minister for Education]is dealing with today, educational underachievement,” he said.
Mr Poots on Tuesday announced a number of internal party appointments and said there were “further announcements to be made in a number of days’ time.”
The East Belfast Assembly memberbecomes Chief Whip, the Upper Bann MLA is to be Mr Poots’ Chief of Staff, and the party’s new deputy leader, , and party secretary Michelle McIlveen will take on new roles with responsibility for the welfare of the party’s elected representatives.
The Lagan Valley MLAis understood to be the most likely candidate for the post of first minister, with the North MLA believed to have ruled himself out.
Ms Bradley and the former minister Ms McIlveen are also believed to be under consideration for ministerial office.
The Lagan Valley MP, who was narrowly defeated by Mr Poots in the leadership election, said division within the party needed to be tackled.
“Those concerns do need to be addressed and I hope that Edwin and his team will look very carefully at what is being said … we will wait and see what the party leader does in terms of his ministerial appointments.”
In regard to the next steps by the outgoing First Minister, the former DUP leader, Mr Donaldson said “these are very personal decisions and it’s not for me to encroach on all of that.
“What we need inis a unionism that reaches out, is a unionism that is strong, is a unionism that promotes that case for the union,” he said. “That’s what we need to be doing now.”
End of this month
Ms Foster had previously said she would stay on until the end of this month, but last week indicated she would step down immediately if Mr Poots nominated an alternative ministerial team.
“If Edwin decides that he wants to change that team, I will have to go as well because I can’t stay with a new ministerial team of which I have no authority, and that would be wrong,” she told reporters on Friday.
Under the power-sharing rules at Stormont, once Ms Foster resigns, the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, also ceases to hold office.
There is a seven-day time limit for both parties to nominate a candidate to fill the respective positions, and agree each other’s choices, or an election must be held.
Speaking on Tuesday the Northern Secretary,, said people in Northern Ireland had previously had “three long years without any government locally” and wanted to see politicians working together and delivering on the commitments made in the New Decade, New Approach agreement which restored the North’s power-sharing Assembly in 2020.
“I think all the party leaders are acutely aware of that and I think they do want to work towards having a good stable Executive, and I will certainly be doing all I can to work with them and talk to them as I have done over the last few days,” he said. Additional reporting – PA