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Arlene Foster steps down as first minister of Northern Ireland

Arlene Foster has stepped down as first minister of Northern Ireland - Credit: PA

Arlene Foster has resigned as Northern Ireland first minister and leader of the DUP following an internal revolt.

Foster will step down as party leader on May 28 and first minister at the end of June, paving the way for a leadership contest to replace her as Northern Ireland’s next head of state.

“It has been the privilege of my life to serve the people of Northern Ireland as their first minister and to represent my home constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone,” she said.

Her resignation on Wednesday comes after days of speculation about her leadership.

Earlier on Wednesday letter of no confidence being signed by a significant number of DUP MPs and MLAs.

Foster’s resignation comes after a DUP minister viewed as a potential successor pulled out of a scheduled north-south meeting with an Irish government counterpart.

The move by agriculture minister Edwin Poots, who is seen as more hardline than Foster, comes amid calls from some sections of unionism for the DUP to end participation in cross-border political structures while Brexit’s Irish Sea border remains in place.

Internal critics of Foster, many of whom have signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership, are pressing for the party to adopt a more robust approach in opposing the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs the new post-Brexit trading arrangements.

In that context, some are interpreting Poots’ no-show as a signal of intent amid the escalating leadership crisis in the DUP.