Arlene Foster says she will leave DUP as Edwin Poots denies party is divided

ireland
Arlene Foster Says She Will Leave Dup As Edwin Poots Denies Party Is Divided
Arlene Foster says she will step down as First Minister immediately if Edwin Poots names his new ministerial team. Photo: PA
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By Rebecca Black and Cate McCurry, PA

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster can step aside at a time of her choosing, her successor as DUP leader has said.

Edwin Poots was speaking after Mrs Foster indicated that if he names his ministerial team next Tuesday as expected, she will step down immediately.

She had previously said she would remain as First Minister until the end of June. She left her role as party leader on Friday.

Mr Poots is set to be the first DUP leader not to take the position of First Minister. He has said he will nominate a colleague in order to allow himself to focus on leading the party.

Speaking to the media in Belfast on Friday afternoon, he reiterated that he has no plans to “push” Mrs Foster out.

“I have said Arlene will leave at a time of Arlene’s choosing, I am not pushing Arlene out,” he said.

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“That’s my position and that remains my position. I am not going to be rushed into doing anything or pushed into doing anything, nor am I going to be denied doing something that I am ready to do.

“We will look at all of these issues and take a decision at a time that is appropriate for us.

“I’ll reveal the ministerial line-up whenever I am ready to reveal my ministerial line-up, and that’s after I have continued my consultation process with my colleagues.”

'United'

Mr Poots, currently the North's Agriculture Minister, was ratified by his party as leader following a stormy meeting at a Belfast hotel on Thursday night.

Mr Poots later addressed the media alongside the newly ratified deputy leader Paula Bradley, with supporters gathered behind him.

He described the meeting as “good” and said it is a “great privilege” to now lead the party that his father had helped form 50 years ago.

Mr Poots said there had been a debate and a contest, and that the contest “had been decided”.

“We will move forward in a united way,” he said.

“The DUP is not a divided party, the DUP has went through an electoral contest, the first in 50 years, and everybody that goes through an electoral contest will have some passion, and passion is good in politics.

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“I like to see people having passion, sometimes even when they are people contesting with me. I like to see people who are passionate in their arguments.”

Foster to leave

Earlier, Mrs Foster confirmed she will leave the DUP when she steps down as First Minister.

He needs to recognise there is a lot of work to do in terms of healing divisions that are quite obviously there in the party

Speaking to reporters as she visited pupils at Banbridge Academy, she was asked what she will do if Mr Poots unveils his team on Tuesday.

“My reaction is that I will resign as well because I have my ministerial team in the Executive with me, we have worked very closely together,” she said.

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“If Edwin decides that he wants to change that team, I will have to go as well because I can’t stay with a new ministerial team of which I have no authority, and that would be wrong.”

Asked what message she has for the new party leader, Mrs Foster said: “Congratulations on becoming the fourth leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. It is a hugely rewarding job.

“There are very many good people who vote for us, who support us, but he [Mr Poots] needs to recognise there is a lot of work to do in terms of healing divisions that are quite obviously there in the party.”

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