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Who is Paul Givan, the North’s probable next first minister?

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Paul Givan and Edwin Poots go way back. These days, they are the DUP’s representatives for Lagan Valley in the Stormont Assembly – and, in Poots’s case, the party’s new leader.

However, they have been part of the same team for roughly 20 years, ever since Givan (39) began working for him as a part-time assistant while a student. Now the partnership is set to conquer the summit of Northern Irish politics.

Givan is widely tipped as the most likely to succeed Arlene Foster as First Minister; illustrated by Poots’s choice to bring him with him to Dublin on Thursday for his meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster earlier that day, Givan declined to be drawn on his potential promotion, saying instead that the choice of the next First Minister was “a matter for Edwin”.

However, should he be offered the job, he would not say no. “I haven’t asked for anything and I haven’t been asked to do anything at this stage,” the MLA said.

“What I have made clear to Edwin is, if he sees me having a role to be able to serve the party and to serve the country, I’ve never shirked away from taking on that responsibility,” he added.

Certainly his CV bears this out. Givan, who is from Lisburn in Co Antrim, has a degree in business studies from Ulster University and began working for Poots full time in 2003.

The former DUP special adviser Tim Cairns remembers how he stood out “as the most confident, the most clued-in” of all the young graduates in the party at the time – “someone who would probably do well in elected politics”.

So it proved. He was elected to Lisburn City Council in 2005, aged 23, and was Poots’s special adviser when he was minister for culture from 2007-2008 and minister for the environment in 2009-2010.

In 2010 Givan was co-opted into the Assembly, where he has been a committee chairman – most notably of the Justice Committee – and was briefly minister for communities from 2016 until the Assembly collapsed in 2017.

‘Very capable’

His colleague Jim Wells, also an MLA, describes Givan as “very capable … the most capable person we have at the minute who’s not a minister”, who was “always across “a very difficult and technical brief” as chairman of Stormont’s Justice Committee.

Summing him up as “a very clear speaker, good on detail, with a fair bit of experience”, Wells went on: “I’m not remotely surprised he was tipped as first minister. Nobody in the party has any raised eyebrows that his name is in the frame.”

Givan and Poots also share a similar background. Both are members of the Free Presbyterian church with a strong DUP pedigree; Poots’s father was a founder member, as were Givan’s grandfather and great-uncles.

Both of their fathers were targeted during the Troubles. The INLA tried to kill Poots’s father, Charlie, in 1976, while Givan’s father, Alan – a former prison officer in the Maze/Long Kesh and now a DUP councillor – received a hoax letter bomb from the IRA as he was about to leave for the hospital as his wife was about to have their first child.

Givan was inspired to enter politics after hearing Paisley speak at a rally against the Belfast Agreement. “He captured me emotionally for the DUP and Peter Robinson’s and Nigel Dodds’s forensic analysis of the failing of the agreement captured me intellectually,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Givan is married and has three young daughters. His religious beliefs are central to his identity, he says: “My faith determines my values; it’s intrinsic to who I am. I am a Christian, first and foremost, a husband, a father, a unionist.”

This was evidenced in 2014, when he attempted to introduce a “conscience clause” into Northern Ireland’s equality legislation following the so-called “gay cake” row, in which the Equality Commission took a civil action against a Christian-owned bakery after it refused to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

His Private Members’ Bill aimed to create a legal exemption for strongly held religious belief. This in his view would rebalance a law under which “gay rights, and the right to have those rights endorsed and promoted by everyone [were viewed as] more important than the rights of Christians to live according to their conscience,” he said.

This year, he tabled a Private Members’ Bill – the first legislative challenge to the North’s recently introduced abortion laws – which would repeal a clause allowing terminations up to birth in cases of serious non-fatal disabilities.

Sharp and capable

In Stormont he is regarded as sharp and capable and unafraid of robust exchanges in the Assembly, or indeed with ministers – “very capable of battling”, as one senior source put it.

During a Brexit debate September 2020, Givan described the Northern Ireland protocol as “an instrument to punish the people here in Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom” which he said was “being exploited by the European Union and our predatory neighbour in the Irish Republic”.

Responding to Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson, he said the motion “was all about the all-Ireland agenda that the member spoke about … about the reunification of this island”.

This forthright style may stand him in good stead; he will be aware of the pitfalls of splitting the roles of party leader and First Minister. If appointed he will be conscious of the need to avoid being seen as the junior partner.

Yet his previous ministerial tenure is chiefly remembered for the withdrawal of the Líofa bursary scheme – which allowed young people to attend Irish classes in the Donegal Gaeltacht – in an email just before Christmas 2016.

That move was condemned by the president of Comhaltas Uladh as a “blatant act of discrimination”.

Though the decision was later reversed, by this time the powersharing Assembly had fallen after the resignation of the then deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, who said Givan’s action was partly to blame – a charge Givan rejects, saying the move was “not a political decision”.

Now, the Irish language is a pressure point again, with an Irish-language act agreed as part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement in 2020, but which has been struck since.

“There aren’t many within the DUP who I could say would be a good choice, or that I could say I could prefer one over the other,” says Irish-language activist Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin. “In terms of the Irish language, there isn’t anyone there.”

Though he stresses the choice of First Minister is a matter for the party, “what I would say is they have to honour the commitments made in New Decade, New Approach that the DUP as a party signed up to.”

In the meantime, the wait continues for Poots’s announcement; for the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, judgment must be reserved until the first minister is in office. Yet of Givan he says: “He may be somebody who we can do business with.”

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Germany’s flood zones spared severe storms on Saturday

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In the west of the country, the fire brigade reported a quiet night in the flood areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia.

The situation remains tense, however, with local thunderstorms forecast in some parts of Germany from midday on Sunday — most likely south of the Danube.

Further heavy rain and hail were also possible again, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), which publishes storm warnings.

READ ALSO: WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms

The latest storms came just days after parts of the country were hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left 180 people dead, hundreds injured and with many still missing.

The flooding also caused damage in Belgium, where 37 people died, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.



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Prosecutors allege R Kelly had sexual contact with under-age boy

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US prosecutors in R Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an under-age boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex-trafficking trial to hear those claims.

Federal prosecutors aired a wide-ranging raft of additional allegations – but not new charges – against the R&B singer in a court filing on Friday.

Jury selection is due to start August 9th in a New York federal court for Kelly, who denies ever abusing anyone.

The Grammy Award-winning singer is charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him to recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise control over them.

The charges involve six different women and girls, who are not named in court filings.

Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people whom the government alleges that Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated.

Among them, the government says, was a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician whom Kelly met at a McDonald’s in December 2006 and later invited to his Chicago studio.

According to the prosecutors’ court filing, after asking the boy what he would do to make it in the music business, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still under-age.

And when Kelly was about to go on trial on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the same youth told the singer he had access to a juror, and Kelly asked him to contact the juror and vouch he was a “good guy”, prosecutors wrote.

The filing does not say whether the youth did so. Kelly was acquitted in that case.

The boy also introduced Kelly to a 16- or 17-year-old male friend, with whom prosecutors say the singer began a sexual relationship several years later.

Kelly also filmed the two youths in sexual encounters with other people, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, according to the filing.

Prosecutors wrote that the accounts of the boys and others would help show that the actual charges “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern”.

The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit I Believe I Can Fly and the cult classic Trapped In The Closet, a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.

Kelly’s private life has drawn scrutiny since the 1990s, and he currently is also facing sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty.– AP

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Fears mount in western Germany as fresh rain falls

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For some areas, the German Weather Service has forecast heavy showers or storms, bringing between 30 and 40 litres per square metre.

Amid further rainfall on Saturday afternoon, evacuation services to emergency accommodation were offered to communities in Rheinland-Palatinate who had been particularly badly affected by the flooding, German news site Merkur reported.

“The people will have to make the decision themselves,” said Begona Hermann, head of the relief teams in the west German state, explaining that the forecast rainfall was not expected to be as severe as that which devastated parts of Germany last week.  

READ ALSO: German floods death toll hits 180, with 150 still missing

However, even lower levels of rainfall could still be a problem because sewage and drainage systems were not working properly because of the flooding.

Earlier on Saturday, police requested all volunteers working on the clean-up operation in the Ahr area to leave as quickly as possible for their own safety because of the difficult conditions.

This came after the police and the crisis management team asked the public not to travel to Rhineland-Palatinate to help out because there were too many people there.

“The population’s willingness to help continues to be undiminished and overwhelming,” read a Kassel police statement on Saturday. Due to the large number of volunteers who came to help out, however, roads in the area are now congested, it said.

Heavy machinery required for road and bridge construction, and for the restoration of the area’s water supply, was getting stuck in traffic jams, the press release said.

Vehicles for removing rubbish and construction debris, as well as emergency and rescue vehicles, were also unable to get through.



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