(Image Credit: AP)
Over mounting criticism about her handling of Brexit, voting for gay conversion therapy, and the Irish Sea border, Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Arlene Foster announced her resignation on Wednesday. Following a letter signed by at least 80 percent of the DUP’s Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) asking Foster to accept the leadership challenges, the Northern Ireland minister told a presser that she will step down on May 28.
Foster took a dig at UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit treaty saying that it led to continued tensions in Northern Ireland. “The protocol being foisted upon Northern Ireland against the will of unionists has served to destabilize Northern Ireland in more recent times,” Foster said at a news conference, partially blaming Boris Johnson for her dismissal. It is being speculated that Foster’s stepping down will also threaten the Post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, which has been the catalyst for anger among Belfast’s unionist community.
You can watch a copy of my statement made today in the link below. https://t.co/X0o0LKTmcZ— Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@DUPleader) April 28, 2021
Calling for unity within the country, Northern Ireland’s outgoing minister said: “There are people in Northern Ireland with a British identity, others are Irish, others are Northern Irish, others are a mixture of all three and some are new and emerging.” She continued, “We must all learn to be generous to each other, live together, and share this wonderful country The future of unionism and Northern Ireland will not be found in the division, it will only be found in sharing this place we all are privileged to call home.”
As I prepare to depart the political stage it is my view that if Northern Ireland is to prosper then it will only do so built on the foundations of successful and durable devolution. That will require continued hard work and real determination and courage on all sides
Hardline DUP MLAs in Stormont and MPs in Westminster have called out Foster repeatedly over her handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol. They blamed her for “poor judgment” while signing the Brexit deal with the UK for different trade arrangements for Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK; she was held responsible for the UK’s disregard of the union. She was questioned over the "significant problems" faced by Northern Ireland on the Irish Sea trade border due to the post-Brexit GB-NI trade deal.
Foster, meanwhile, said in a televised address, that it has been a privilege for her “to serve the people of Northern Ireland as their First Minister and to represent my home constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone.” She further added that it was “important to give space over the next few weeks for the Party Officers to make arrangements for the election of a new leader”.