Arlene Foster's leadership of DUP could be coming to end

Henrietta Strickland
April 28, 2021

The Belfast News Letter reported that several DUP constituency associations had written letters expressing concern at her decision to abstain on a recent Assembly vote on a motion calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy that did not incorporate a specific mention of protections for religious practices.

Paraic O'Brien was at Stormont.

However, she noted the party could consider splitting the roles of DUP leader and Northern Ireland first minister - meaning there would be two senior roles available.

Electing a new leader might settle the unrest within the DUP but it could also unsettle those outside who share power with the party.

Early indications suggest it may not end well for Mrs Foster.

Ms Foster, however, said stories around leadership come up "from time to time" - saying the party would deal with it and she has "bigger things to do".

The DUP has been under pressure since the Brexit agreement came into force, because it imposes fresh customs barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

One unnamed party member told the publication that there is "no way" Foster will be able to see the leadership challenge off and that the party - which has fiercely opposed advancements in LGBT+ rights - needs a "clear direction".

In a statement, the DUP said its internal democratic electoral processes were a matter for its members and declined to make further public comment on Mrs Foster's future.

The primary source of concern is her handling of the Brexit process. The DUP is facing anger from the wider loyalist and unionist community for the introduction of an Irish Sea border.

Critics have accused Mrs Foster of failing to use the party's influence in Westminster - particularly during its confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives - to secure a Brexit deal that saw Northern Ireland leave the European Union on the same terms as the rest of the UK.

Mrs Foster and four party colleagues, including fellow Stormont Executive minister Peter Weir and Diane Dodds, abstained in the vote on the substantive motion, rather than opposing it.

However, while acknowledging that frustration among some DUP figures had been growing for "some time", party insiders on Tuesday questioned the logic behind trying to replace Mrs Foster at such a precarious time. "It's important that we lift our eyes and continue the work of rolling out the restrictions, deal with the Northern Ireland Protocol", she added. People are panicking and thinking we must do something. "But I don't think it's going to solve it".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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