- 28 Apr 21
The DUP leader said she would step down in a statement posted this afternoon.
Arlene Foster has announced that she intends to step down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on May 28, and step down as First Minister of Northern Ireland at the end of June, in a statement shared on the DUP website today. The statement arrives shortly after 75% of her party's Northern Ireland assembly members signed a letter of no confidence.
"It is important to give space over the next few weeks for the Party Officers to make arrangements for the election of a new leader," she says in her statement. "When elected I will work with the new leader on transition arrangements."
She goes on to note that she is "the first to recognise that there have been ups and downs over the last five and a half years."
"The three years without devolution caused untold harm to our public services and the RHI Inquiry was a difficult period," she continues. "The Protocol being foisted upon Northern Ireland against the will of unionists has served to destabilise Northern Ireland in more recent times."
Elsewhere in the statement, she says that her election as leader of the DUP "broke a glass ceiling."
"I understand the misogynistic criticisms that female public figures have to take and sadly it’s the same for all women in public life," she resumes. "I want to encourage you to keep going and don’t let the online lynch mobs get you down."
Foster has served as leader of the DUP since 2015 – taking over from Peter Robinson – and has been an MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone since 2003. She served as First Minister of Northern Ireland from January 2016 to January 2017, and then from January 2020 to the present.
In response to Foster's resignation, deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill has also issued a statement, in which she acknowledges "the efforts Arlene Foster has made as First Minister, and the service that she has given in working with the rest of the Executive as we have battled the biggest health crisis in a generation."
"It is now a matter for the DUP to choose a replacement," she continues. "The incoming DUP leader should recognise that the political landscape across our island has changed.
"The broad community are impatient for social reform and political change which reflects a modern and progressive society where everyone can feel that they belong on an equal basis."
O'Neill concludes the statement by noting that "Sinn Féin will work with all parties to progress social reform, political change and economic prosperity – but we will robustly oppose damaging policies or regressive throwback politics of the past.
"The public and electorate want the parties to enter into a new era and make politics work in their interests. This is certainly my top priority now and in the time ahead."
See more reactions to the news below:
Arlene Foster has resigned
Brexit devours another of its children
— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) April 28, 2021
I want to celebrate Arlene Foster stepping down, but also want to emigrate because her replacement will likely be much worse. what to do, what to do...
— Katie Ní Chléire ⭕✨ (@katienichleire) April 28, 2021
Arlene Foster's resignation speech to @SkyNews was ironically one of the best she's ever made, she spoke healing division and encouraged young working class women to be the politicians of the future, now the question of her leadership is answered what next for the DUP?
— Allison Morris (@AllisonMorris1) April 28, 2021
Oh mummy! https://t.co/N22MrwshXY
— Blu Hydrangea (@BluHydrangea_) April 28, 2021
The next few weeks will be particularly nasty. Every single DUP MP, Cllr or MLA that has an axe to grind will be doing it publicly, depending on which horse they are backing.
I suspect Donaldson, Robinson, Poots, Givan, Wilson and Stalford will all be names on lips.
— Stephen Donnan-Dalzell (𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺/𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘮) (@Donnan_S) April 28, 2021