Arlene Foster is reportedly leaving the DUP for good and will resign her Assembly seat after the ultra-conservative party ousted her as leader.
Foster announced that she was resigning as first minister of Northern Ireland and as leader of the DUP on Wednesday (28 April) after three quarters of her MLAs signed a letter of no confidence.
Speaking to reporters at a primary school in Cloughey, County Down on Friday (30 April), Arlene Foster said she will wait until she stands down as first minister at the end of June before she discloses whether she will remain in the DUP.
However, political sources told BBC Northern Ireland that Foster will quit the DUP as she believes it is no longer the party she joined in 2005.
Sources said Foster believes the DUP is going in a “different direction” – one that she evidently does not want to be a part of.
Meanwhile, Foster confirmed that her days in Northern Ireland’s Assembly are numbered, telling reporters that she is stepping down as an MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
“It’s been a turbulent week, it’s been a week where I’ve had to make pretty big decisions,” Foster said, according to RTÉ News.
“But I think the time is right to move on and to do something different, and that’s what I’ll do.”
Foster, who will step down as leader of the DUP at the end of May but will serve as first minister until the end of June, admitted that she has had no direct contact from any of the MLAs who signed a letter of no confidence in her earlier this week.
“Politics is a very brutal game I think everybody knows that to be the case,” Foster said.
“I haven’t actually spoken to any of the colleagues who are purported to have signed the letters, they haven’t been in touch.”
Foster added that she has not yet seen the letter of no confidence that was circulated earlier this week, and told reporters that she has “very good friends” within the party that did not sign the letter.
Arlene Foster resigned as DUP leader after a letter of no confidence was circulated
The veteran politician has served as leader of the anti-LGBT+ DUP since 2015. In that time, she repeatedly reaffirmed her party’s opposition to any advancements in LGBT+ rights.
Earlier this week, the News Letter reported that there was an internal heave to have Arlene Foster removed as leader of the party, with members citing dissatisfaction with her handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Some party members were also unhappy with her decision to abstain on a Ulster Unionist Party motion calling for conversion therapy to be banned. While Foster abstained on the vote, most DUP MLAs voted against it.
Edwin Poots, an MLA with a long history of opposing LGBT+ rights in Northern Ireland, has already announced that he will contest the leadership battle.