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Arlene Foster calls for unionist unity as she announces her resignation

Arlene Foster's departure is expected to intensify divisions in the unionist camp at least in the immediate term

As widely expected Arlene Foster has announced her resignation as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Northern Ireland’s First Minister.

Foster said she will step down as DUP leader on May 28 and as First Minister of the British-controlled territory at the end of the June.

Her position became untenable after 75 percent of the DUP’s Northern Ireland Assembly members signed a letter expressing no confidence in her leadership and demanding a leadership contest.

In addition, eight of the DUP’s 18 constituency associations submitted letters of concern over Foster’s management of the Brexit-related Northern Ireland Protocol and other issues.   

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a highly emotive issue amongst the unionist and loyalist community in the north of Ireland in so far as it has effectively placed a border down the Irish Sea.

The intense and violent opposition to the protocol was underscored by 12 consecutive nights of rioting by loyalist gangs across the north of Ireland.


Foster, who became DUP leader in December 2015 and First Minister in January 2020, tried to put a positive spin on her departure by claiming that Northern Ireland could only prosper on the “foundations of successful and durable devolution”.

She also urged the highly divided unionist camp to bridge their differences by proclaiming:  "The future of unionism and Northern Ireland will not be found in division. It will only be found in sharing this place we are privileged to call home".

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