Sinn Fein calls on next DUP leader to be ‘aware of desire for progressive change’ after Arlene Foster

Sinn Fein has called on the incoming DUP leader to be ‘aware of the desire for progressive political change’.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 6:43 pm

Sinn Fein has called on the incoming DUP leader to be ‘aware of the desire for progressive political change’.

Vice president Michelle O’Neill has wished Arlene Foster and her family well, in a statement following her resignation as DUP leader and First Minister.

But the deputy First Minister also highlighted the issues of powersharing, women’s rights, LGBT equality, and the Irish language as key issues facing her replacement.

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Arlene Foster with Michelle O'Neill

Ms O’Neill said: “I spoke to Arlene today and she informed me of her decision to step down. I wished her and and her family well.

“I have worked alongside Arlene Foster this past year in what has been a difficult and challenging time for everyone with the unexpected onset of the Covid pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic I acknowledge 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.”

Mrs Foster said she will stand down as party leader on May 28 and as First Minister at the end of June.

The announcement comes 24 hours after an sizeable internal heave against her by DUP politicians unhappy with her leadership.

It has been speculated that Ms Foster’s more moderate views, relative to those of her party, on issues such as LGBT and abortion played a role in her downfall.

Ms O’Neill moved quickly to put those issues on the agenda for Ms Foster’s successor.

“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,” Ms O’Neill said.

“As joint head of government my focus, and the focus of our Executive, must remain on the task of leading us safely and sustainably out of the pandemic, building a fairer economic recovery, providing first-class public services and delivering the New Decade, New Approach deal to the benefit of every section of our society.

“This requires a genuine commitment from all political leaders to powersharing and to work to deliver equality for women, for the LGBT community, for Irish language and identity and all sections of our community.”

She added: “Within the Executive and Assembly, Sinn Fein 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.”

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