Northern Ireland First Minister Foster to step down after party revolt

Northern Ireland First Minister Foster to step down after party revolt

Arlene Foster has resigned as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) after three quarters of her elected representatives signed a letter of no confidence.

In addition, a letter has been sent from DUP councillors to the party chairman, Lord Morrow, stating they were "severely worried" about the state of the party and country and calling for Mrs Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds to resign.

But former DUP adviser Timothy Cairns said a leadership contest was almost inevitable and Foster would be the "greatest political survivor in the history of United Kingdom politics" if she managed to keep her job.

While the European Union has said it will not consider scrapping the Protocol, some party members have demanded a harder line.

Wells also told the News Letter that party members were unhappy that MLA Diane Dodds attended a recent north-south ministerial meeting, despite the fact that the party is now boycotting such meetings over objections to the Northern Irish protocol.

The DUP leader has played down suggestions her leadership is under threat.

Mrs Foster was due to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis on Tuesday evening but that has been cancelled.

In a statement, the DUP said its internal democratic electoral processes were a matter for its members and declined to make further public comment on Mrs Foster's future.

Mrs Foster has led the DUP since December 2015, taking over from Peter Robinson.

While this is normally seen as a rubber stamping exercise, the scale of the rebellion suggests that it could be used as an opportunity to oust her unless she steps down or agrees to a challenge.

Mrs Foster said she would stand down as party leader on May 28 and as first minister at the end of June.

"Stories on leadership come up from time to time, and it's one of those times, " she said.

"So we'll just deal with it and move on because I've bigger things to do, including getting us through this Covid pandemic, including listening to the concerns of working-class communities", she said.

Foster quit before being pushed, after an effective letter of no confidence won substantial support from DUP politicians.

Arlene Foster's leadership appears to be hanging by a thread.

While Mrs Foster and her four party colleagues voted for the amendment they did not oppose the unamended substantive motion.

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