Arlene Foster - SDLP leader Colum Eastwood says Arlene Foster was removed by DUP because she abstained on vote on gay conversion therapy

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, believes Arlene Foster is being forced to resign as leader of the DUP and First Minister because she abstained on a vote concerning gay conversion therapy in the Assembly last week.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 7:16 pm

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Arlene Foster during a press conference outside Stormont, Belfast. Mrs Foster has announced her resignation as DUP leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland.
Arlene Foster during a press conference outside Stormont, Belfast. Mrs Foster has announced her resignation as DUP leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland.

LIVE UPDATES: Arlene Foster - SDLP leader Colum Eastwood says Arlene Foster was removed by DUP because she abstained on vote on gay conversion therapy

Last updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2021, 16:58

  • Colum Eastwood says Arlene Foster removed by DUP because she abstained on gay conversion therapy vote
  • Arlene Foster announces decision to resign as leader of the DUP and First Minister
  • Arlene Foster makes first public appearance since DUP MLAs and MPs sign no confidence letter
  • Leadership favourite Edwin Poots pulls out of scheduled North-South ministerial council meeting

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood says Arlene Foster was removed by DUP because she abstained on vote on gay conversion therapy

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, MP, has extended his best wishes to Arlene Foster MLA as she steps back from front line politics and will stand down as First Minister from the end of June.

Colum Eastwood MP wished Mrs. Foster and her family well and said the circumstances surrounding her resignation were “deeply concerning”.

“I want to extend my personal good wishes to Arlene Foster and her family as she steps back from front line politics and prepares to stand down as First Minister in June. We disagree on almost everything but she has clearly been a committed servant to her party for a long time.

“The circumstances that have led to the First Minister’s resignation are deeply concerning. That a political leader would be removed from office by their party for failing to support conversion therapy is distressing and will cause some alarm for members of our LGBT+ community. They should know that we will not roll back on the progress we’ve made or deny them their rights.

“Whoever takes over as DUP Leader and First Minister will also inherit the same febrile political situation that we have all been dealing with for months. Neither the British Government nor the European Union will alter their position on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Regardless of personnel changes – the fundamental problems have not changed and therefore neither have the solutions.

“We need parties and political leaders who are committed to the institutions of devolution and want to make this place work. As a leader of nationalism, I want to work with confident, outward-looking and generous leaders within unionism to deliver the change that our communities so badly need. A lurch to the politics of division, intransigence and deadlock would be a mistake. In a spirit of cooperation, I urge those who will soon declare their intentions to reflect on how we can build a more united community.

“The SDLP will be willing partners for those who genuinely want to address the challenges we face constructively and together.”

SDLP Deputy Leader and Executive Minister Nichola Mallon MLA said:

“Whatever our political differences, as a Minister, it was always clear to me that Arlene Foster was passionate about her constituents and Northern Ireland. On a personal level, I have no doubt this will be a difficult time for Arlene and her family.”

Arlene Foster announces decision to resign as leader of the DUP and First Minister

First Minister, Arlene Foster, has confirmed she is to stand down as leader of the DUP next month and as First Minister for Northern Ireland in June.

See Mrs. Foster’s full statement below.

“A short time ago I called the Party Chairman to inform him that I intend to step down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party on the twenty-eighth of May and as First Minister of Northern Ireland at the end of June.

“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.  When elected I will work with the new leader on transition arrangements.

“As First Minister it is important that I complete work on a number of important issues for Northern Ireland alongside other Executive colleagues.  Northern Ireland and its people have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and there remains more work to be done to steer us thorough the pandemic and to lessen its impact on the lives of everyone.

“It has been the privilege of my life to serve the people of Northern Ireland as their First Minister and to represent my home constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone.  I first entered the Assembly in 2003 and undoubtedly the journey of the last eighteen years has been memorable.  There are many people who have helped and supported me throughout that period and I will always been grateful for the kindness and support shown to me by them.

“Whilst there have been many difficult and testing times for the Executive it remains my firm view that Northern Ireland has been better served having local Ministers at this time.  It is unthinkable that we could have faced into the Coronavirus pandemic without our own devolved Ministers in place and no Ministerial direction for Departments.

“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.

“Whilst the focus is on me today I recognise that will pass.  For me my decision to enter politics was never about party or person, it was about speaking up for the voiceless and building a Northern Ireland which could prosper and be at peace within the United Kingdom.

“I am the first to recognise there have been ups and downs over the last five and a half years.

“The 2016 Assembly election result and our Party’s best ever Westminster result in 2017 stand out amongst the high points when the electorate sent a clear message that they wanted to keep Northern Ireland moving forward.

“The Confidence and Supply Agreement was able to bring one billion pounds of extra spending for everyone in Northern Ireland.   Our priorities were not narrow but based on more investment in mental health and hospitals, bringing broadband to rural communities, improving our roads and ensuring funding to encourage more shared housing and education.

“For our innocent victims, I am proud we battled together and whilst too late for some, we finally secured a truly deserved pension for you.

“For our armed forces, the Veterans’ Commissioner is in place. You have an advocate to stand up for you and ensure your voice is heard at the heart of government.

“Of course as with highs there were lows along the way.

“The three years without devolution caused untold harm to our public services and the RHI Inquiry was a difficult period.  The Protocol being foisted upon Northern Ireland against the will of unionists has served to destabilise Northern Ireland in more recent times.

“Whilst there is still a job of work to do, I am proud that there is a young generation of Democratic Unionists getting involved in politics and trying to shape Northern Ireland for the better.

“Over the last twelve months, I have been holding online meetings every week with young people mainly from working class communities and encouraging them especially the young women to get involved.

“I echo that encouragement today. Politics and debate is the only path to effect change in society. You will and can be the MPs, MLAs and Councillors of tomorrow.

“My election as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party broke a glass ceiling and I am glad inspired other women to enter politics and spurred them on to take up elected office.

“I understand the misogynistic criticisms that female public figures have to take and sadly it’s the same for all women in public life.

“I want to encourage you to keep going and don’t let the online lynch mobs get you down.

“To the hundreds of Party supporters who have been in touch over the last few days, I say a sincere thank you for the opportunities to serve you and the support you have given me.  For almost five and a half years I have been incredibly humbled to have the opportunity to lead the Democratic Unionist Party.

“I have sought to lead the Party and Northern Ireland away from division and towards a better path.

“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. 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 division, it will only be found in sharing this place we all are privileged to call home.”

DUP leader 'will inevitably resign soon' - Robert Peston

ITV Political Editor, Robert Peston, has told his 1.1 million Twitter followers that DUP leader, Arlene Foster, “will inevitably resign soon” and described the actions of DUP MLAs, MPs and peers who signed a letter of no confidence in Mrs. Foster as a “coup”.

Arlene Foster makes first public appearance since DUP MLAs and MPs sign no confidence letter

Handout photo taken from the Twitter page of the First Minister of Northern Ireland and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster during her visit to Maguiresbridge Primary School in Fermanagh.

DUP leader, Arlene Foster, has made her first public appearance since a number of DUP MLAs, MPs and peers signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership of the party.

Amid the challenge to her leadership, Mrs. Foster visited a primary school in her Co Fermanagh constituency on Wednesday.

She posted images of the visit to Maguiresbridge primary school on her Twitter account.

“Well done to the children of Maguiresbridge Primary School who created a special display for Her Majesty The Queen on her 95th birthday,” she tweeted.

“Lovely to view their project today and meet with the staff and children. #proudofNI”

Health Minister and UUP MLA Robin Swann is asked about the developments concerning Arlene Foster

First Minister, Arlene Foster.

Health Minister Robin Swann, a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, was asked about the DUP leadership furore on Wednesday afternoon.

“The internal machinations of the DUP with their leadership will be for the party to deal with,” he said.

“But what I would say is anyone who has led a party, anyone who has held a ministerial role, for anyone who has held both roles at the same time will realise there are personal sacrifices and a large commitment as well it takes to be doing those two roles.

“Especially the combined role of trying to lead a five-party executive over the past 14 months during a pandemic has been a very trying and challenging time as well.”

Health Minister, Robin Swann.

Michelle O'Neill slams 'hair brained' Edwin Poots for pulling out of North-South meeting

Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, has slammed DUP leadership favourite, Edwin Poots, after it emerged he had pulled out of a scheduled North-South ministerial council meeting due to take place today.

“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 & there is no alternative. Put simply these hare-brained antics are juvenile.”

Leadership favourite Edwin Poots pulls out of scheduled North-South ministerial council meeting

DUP Agriculture minister Edwin Poots, who is viewed as a potential successor to Arlene Foster, has pulled out of a scheduled north south meeting with an Irish Government ministerial counterpart.

Mr Poots’ move comes amid recent uncertainty about the DUP’s continued participation in north south political structures due to their opposition to Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The DUP has failed to turn up for two previous meetings in recent weeks but last week DUP Economy Minister Diane Dodds did participate in a planned economic development meeting with Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.

Mr Poots is viewed as more of a hardliner than Mrs Foster and his no-show on Wednesday is being interpreted by some as a signal of intent in the wider internal leadership heave against the party leader.

Irish Agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue tweeted his disappointment: “I am disappointed the scheduled North/South Ministerial Council meeting did not take place.

“This engagement is crucial to strengthening North South ties.

“I urge all sides to work together for the betterment of our farmers & wider communities. We work stronger when we work together.”

A young Arlene Foster reflecting on the demise of former First Minister and UUP leader David Trimble

Arlene Foster will be the ‘greatest political survivor in the history of UK politics’ if she sees off challenge to leadership of DUP says former DUP special adviser Timothy Cairns

DUP leader, Arlene Foster. (Photo: Presseye)

Former DUP special adviser Timothy Cairns said Arlene Foster will be the “greatest political survivor in the history of UK politics” if she sees through a leadership contest.

He told the BBC Radio Four Today programme there “has to be” a contest within the next 10 days.

He said: “I think if she sees this one through she’ll be the greatest political survivor in the history of UK politics.

“I don’t see how she sees this through. I think we’re now at 22 MLAs, we’re now at four MPs, who’ve signed this letter to the party chairman asking that a leadership election takes place.”

He added: “I think whatever happens, whether she tries to cling on, whether she resigns, there has to be a leadership contest sometime within the next seven to 10 days.”

Letter circulating among DUP councillors tells Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds to go “immediately”

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