A planned North South Ministerial Council meeting has been cancelled after the DUP's agriculture minister at Stormont failed to show.

Edwin Poots, an outspoken critic of the Northern Ireland Protocol, had been due to have talks with his counterpart Charlie McConalogue this morning.

He is being strongly tipped as a contender for the position of DUP leader, as well as possibly Stormont First Minister.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill criticised Mr Poots.

"Today's scheduled meeting of ministers North/South on rural development and agriculture was cancelled as no DUP Minister would attend," she tweeted.

"The North/South dimension is central to the Good Friday Agreement and there is no alternative."

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has expressed his disappointment that the scheduled Council meeting did not take place today.

"This engagement is crucial to strengthening North South ties. I urge all sides to work together for the betterment of our farmers and wider communities.

"We work stronger when we work together."

It came in the hours before Arlene Foster announced that she would resign as DUP leader and NI First Minister.

Her future as the DUP leader hung in the balance after party colleagues mounted a heave against her yesterday.

It is understood a significant number of the DUP's elected members had signed a letter of no confidence in Mrs Foster.


Read more: Arlene Foster to step down as DUP leader and First Minister


Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the European Union and Ireland are seeking to reach out to unionism and to the DUP as the largest party "and work with them if we can to try to address genuine concerns around the protocol."

Simon Coveney told RTÉ's News at One that he does not think the EU can deliver "everything that is being asked" of it by unionists, or set aside the protocol, which is an part of an international agreement.

However, he stressed there are flexibilities in the protocol and a system in place to negotiate these flexibilities.

Mr Coveney said the extension of grace periods and introducing flexibilities across other areas are being considered.

He said that "enormous efforts" are being made by the Irish Government in particular to ensure the European Commission is "plugged into the concerns, anxieties and divisions on the ground in Northern Ireland".

The minister said Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič is making "continued and significant" efforts to listen to business and political leaders from Northern Ireland and do what he can to respond to them.

But Mr Coveney added that "what was signed up to" must be "followed through on as well".

He said he hopes that North South Ministerial Council meetings go ahead, adding that the council itself is an "essential pillar" to the Good Friday Agreement.

"Many people agreed to change the constitution in Ireland and a huge majority voted for the Good Friday Agreement on the basis of guarantees that there would be structured dialogue and partnership North South on this island, and so that is why the North South Ministerial Council isn't a minor issue. It is very much central to the institutions that allowed the Good Friday Agreement to work".