Arlene Foster Is On The Brink Of Stepping Down As DUP Politicians Sign No Confidence Motion
Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster's future as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party is hanging by a thread after at least three-quarters of the party's assembly members signed a motion calling for a leadership contest.
DUP politicians in Westminster and Belfast are adding their signatures to a motion of no confidence in Foster's leadship, which is set to trigger emergency party talks about electing a new leader.
A clear majority of DUP assembly members (MLAs), more half of the party's Westminster MPs and some peers had signed the motion, the Belfast News Letter reported on Tuesday evening.
A DUP source told PoliticsHome that Foster, who has led the party since 2015, was expected to resign as leader – with the number of MLAs and MPs signing the motion leaving her with little choice but to make way for a successor.
Another well-placed source said the scale of opposition to her leadership among DUP politicians meant she was in "very dangerous territory".
Only the party's 27 MLAs and eight MPs would vote in a leadership contest.
Foster earlier on Tuesday sought to play down speculation that her leadership was under threat, saying stories "come up from time to time".
She said: "So we'll just deal with it and move on because I've bigger things to do, including getting us through this Covid pandemic, including listening to the concerns of working-class communities".
The party in a statement did not deny reports of a motion of no confidence.
"The Democratic Unionist Party conducts its business in accordance with its constitution and rules," it said.
“The officers of the party oversee the conduct and organisation of its internal democratic electoral processes.
“Whilst understanding that there will be from time-to-time public interest in party processes, these issues, in the first instance, are matters for members of the party and we are not able to make any further comment at this time".
A seperate letter sent by DUP councillors to the party's chairman, Lord Morrow, said they were "severely worried" by the performance of the leadership and called on Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds to stand down with immediate effect, the BBC reported.Foster became the first woman to lead the DUP when she was chosen to succeed the party's former leader Peter Robinson six years ago.
Her leadership has been turbulent, defined by the collapse of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government in 2017, which resulted in Stormont being out of action for three years, as well Brexit's impact on the province's relationship with the rest of the UK.
The DUP did not support the Northern Ireland Protocol, which to the frustration of unionists has created trade barriers in the Irish Sea, but is accused of having botched Brexit by allowing the UK government and European Union to effectively impose an economic border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.