DUP’s divisions now in full view as party members publicly slug it out over Arlene Foster’s ousting

The DUP’s divisions over the toppling of Arlene Foster have spilled into public with members supporting or denouncing her local association attacking her removal.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 6:33 pm
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 8:55 am

A message posted on Fermanagh and South Tyrone DUP association’s Facebook page on Wednesday said that the DUP leader’s removal “was not done in our name”.

It said: “Fermanagh and South Tyrone DUP Association met this week to voice their disgust at the manner in which our party leader, First Minister and local MLA Rt Hon Arlene Foster has been treated over recent weeks.”

They said that Mrs Foster had “worked tirelessly over the years” and went on to say: “Our association is sending out a strong message to Arlene Foster. This was not done in our name.

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The DUP is still split over whether Arlene Foster should have been removed

“The Fermanagh and South Tyrone DUP association have unanimously backed Arlene Foster to remain as our MLA, however we recognise this is a personal decision.

“We appreciate that Arlene has sacrificed so much personally over the years for public service, but this association will stand firm by her side.”

That message was then shared by one of defeated DUP leadership contender Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s key supporters, East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson and the East Belfast DUP page.

Multiple DUP members – some of them councillors – liked the post. Among them were Paul Robinson, Keith Elliott, Kathryn Owen, Vikki Nelson and Brian Haslett.

However, two DUP founding members – Wallace Thompson and Tommy Nicholl – disagreed. Mr Thompson said: “The party should not be washing its linen in public to the degree that it is. Far too much is being said via public statements.

“We need to move on and there needs to be a healing process within the family. That’s best done behind closed doors.”

Mr Nicholl endorsed that sentiment, saying: “Let’s us pray for that spirit to return.”

Within days of her resignation, Mrs Foster was reported to have said that she will be leaving politics entirely and resigning from the DUP once she leaves as first minister at the end of next month.

Earlier this week the DUP leader questioned whether the letter of no confidence – which the News Letter was told at the time had been signed by 85% of DUP MLAs – even existed, saying that she had still not been shown the correspondence.

However, several DUP sources expressed bafflement at her response, highlighting her sudden acceptance last month that she faced insurmountable opposition, and thus deciding not to stand in a leadership contest.

Meanwhile, Mervyn Storey has turned down the chance to take over as first minister, it has been reported.

The Irish News reported that Mr Storey – who had said that he was open to thinking about the possibility if it was offered to him by Mr Poots – had now ruled it out because he doesn’t want to be “Edwin’s mudguard”. A DUP source told the paper that “after discussing it with his family and various people, as well as seeking guidance in prayer, Mervyn has decided to turn down Edwin’s offer. I think he sees the role as a poisoned chalice and at the end of the day he couldn’t be bothered with the hassle”.