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Boris Johnson honors Arlene Foster – serving NI was the privilege of my life, says resigning PM

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Ms Foster will step down as party leader on May 28 and prime minister at the end of June after bowing to a major internal uprising against her.

The 50-year-old member of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone assembly has suggested an intention to quit politics altogether, with her resignation statement speaking of preparing to leave politics.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among those who paid tribute to Ms Foster.

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< class="">< style="display:block;padding-top:70.7111%"/>Guest Chairman Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP and Party Leader Arlene Foster pictured at the DUP Annual 2018 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast.  Photo by: Arthur Allison / Pacemaker Press
Guest Chairman Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP and Party Leader Arlene Foster pictured at the DUP Annual 2018 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast. Photo by: Arthur Allison / Pacemaker Press

I want to thank Arlene Foster @DUPleader for her dedication to the people of Northern Ireland for many years, he tweeted.

She will continue to play a vital role as Prime Minister until June and I hope she will stay in the public service for years to come.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin highlighted the new ground she has crossed by becoming the first female Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

She sent a strong message to women about what can be achieved in and through politics, he said.

Ms Fosters’ announcement comes 24 hours after colleagues at the DUP unhappy with her leadership opposed her, with a majority of senior elected officials signing a letter of no confidence.

Dissatisfaction with the DUP’s Brexit strategy has been a major factor in the revolt, with the party base partly blaming the emergence of an Irish Sea border on its doorstep.

Traditionalists from the party’s religious fundamentalist wing have also expressed concerns about the positions Ms Foster has taken on certain social issues.

MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Gavin Robinson, both considered moderates, and more radical Stormont Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots are among the names emerging as potential successors.

There is speculation that when Ms Foster leaves, the two roles she currently occupies could be split in the future, with one politician taking on the role of party leader and another being appointed prime minister.

This would potentially allow an MP to lead the party from Westminster while an MP assumes the post of prime minister.

Ms Foster, who has been a leader for more than five years, said the staggered timetable for her departure was designed to give space to the process of electing a successor.

It has been the privilege of my life to serve the people of Northern Ireland as Prime Minister and to represent my home constituency of Fermanagh / South Tyrone, she said.

Ms Foster added: For almost five and a half years, I have been extremely honored 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, some are Irish, some are Northern Irish, some are a mix of all three and some are new and emerging. We all need to learn to be generous to each other, to live together and to share this wonderful country.

The future of unionism and Northern Ireland will not lie in division, it will only be found in sharing this place we all have the privilege to call home.

Sinn Fein’s Deputy Deputy Prime Minister Michelle ONeill was among those who wished Ms Foster the best of luck.

I have worked alongside Arlene Foster this year in a difficult and difficult time for everyone with the unexpected onset of the Covid pandemic, she said.

Throughout the pandemic, I recognize Arlene Foster’s efforts as Prime Minister and the service she has rendered by working with the rest of the executive as we battled the biggest health crisis in a generation.

There has been growing unease among DUP members over Ms Foster and the party leadership at large in recent months.

The main source of concern is the management of the Brexit process. The DUP faces the wrath of the loyalist and unionist community at large for the introduction of a border with the Irish Sea.

Critics accused Ms Foster of failing to use party influence in Westminster, particularly during her trust and supply deal with the Tories to secure a Brexit deal that saw Northern Ireland leave the EU under the same conditions as the rest of the UK.

She has also been accused of not being vocal enough against the contentious protocol, which governs new Brexit trade barriers between NI and GB, ahead of its introduction in early 2021.

The low numbers in recent polls have exacerbated discontent among party loyalists, who are aware of the impending next Mays Assembly election.

Besides the border with the Irish Sea, Ms Fosters’ decision to abstain in a vote calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy last week appears to have stirred sections of the party’s fundamentalist base again. .

The majority of his party’s assembly colleagues voted against the motion, failing to amend it to include a reference to religious protections.

Ms Foster was among only five party members, including Stormont’s other executive ministers Peter Weir and Diane Dodds, who abstained.

This episode highlighted tensions between Ms Foster, a member of the Church of Ireland and former Ulster Unionist, and the more traditional Free Presbyterian wing of the DUP, which perceives her as potentially too moderate on certain social issues.

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