Arlene Foster has announced her resignation as the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and as Northern Ireland’s first minister after a backlash against her leadership from MPs and within her own party.
Foster will step down as DUP leader on May 28 and as first minister by the end of June, she confirmed in a written statement on Wednesday, following days of speculation about her position.
She said it had been the “privilege of my life” to serve the people of Northern Ireland and that she wanted to give the party space to make arrangements for the election of a new leader.
Her resignation comes after reports that as many as 22 of the DUP’s 27 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and four MPs had signed a letter of no confidence in Foster. She became first minister in 2016.
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The DUP leader has endured a tumultuous premiership, most recently drawing criticism from among party ranks over her handling of the Brexit arrangements, including the imposition of a border down the Irish Sea.
Foster’s critics have accused her of not being tough enough in opposing the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs how goods are supposed to enter the country from Britain post-Brexit.
The arrangements, which involve stringent border checks, caused serious disruptions to supermarket supply chains in early 2021 and were one of the factors behind several nights of unrest in Belfast earlier this month.
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