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Arlene Foster's lack of assembly support sets Stormont precedent

Arlene Foster does not have the support of the assembly

ARLENE Foster's failure to secure the support of a majority of MLAs has set a precedent for the Stormont institutions.

The DUP leader is the first politician to hold the first minister's post but not have the backing of the assembly.

Yet despite losing a vote of no confidence, the peculiarities of the Stormont system mean she will remain in office.

On Monday, an SDLP motion calling for Mrs Foster to stand aside for up to six months was defeated on the basis that it did not have cross-community support.

However, the motion had 39 votes for and 36 votes against. Sinn Féin did not take part in the vote, though the party has clearly stated that it wants Mrs Foster to vacate her Stormont Castle office for at least four weeks until the interim findings of a probe into the botched Renewable Heat Incentive are published.

At present the DUP leader has the support 35 of her party's MLAs and Justice Minister Claire Sugden out of 108 MLAs.

But unless a future no confidence vote secures the support of at least 50 per cent of MLAs who designate themselves unionist or Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness chooses to leave office, then Mrs Foster will remain first minister.

Ulster University politics lecturer David McCann said the situation the DUP leader found herself in was unprecedented.

"The first minister now operates in an assembly where only her party and Claire Sugden are willing to vote confidence in her – never has as First Minister operated in a such an environment," he said.

"The fact that a cross community vote saved her from being excluded from office for six months does create a narrative of the DUP vs everybody else.

"Whilst to most observers, this might seem like a threat to her position, this is comfortable terrain for the DUP and Foster's combative performance on Monday demonstrates she is seeking to defiantly face down those who want her to stand aside."

Sinn Féin said that when the assembly resumes on January 16 it plans to bring a substantive motion calling for Mrs Foster to step aside while a probe into the botched Renewable Heat Incentive.

Arlene Foster speaking to the Irish News in October about RHI:

Arlene Foster speaking to the Irish News in October about RHI  

Paul Givan claims he has north's biggest budget  

COMMUNITIES Minister Paul Givan has boasted of having Stormont's biggest budget even though he controls just a fraction of the funds utilised by the Department of Health.

The DUP minister told listeners to the Nolan Show on Tuesday that he was in charge of the purse strings for Stormont's biggest spending department.

Mr Givan raised eyebrows when he said he was in charge of £7 billion budget.

The Department for Communities has total resource budget of just over £1billion and while it does administer benefits and pensions totalling £7.7 billion, this money comes direct from the Treasury.

Stormont's Department of Health meanwhile has a total budget of £5.1bn, for which Sinn Féin minister Michelle O'Neill has full control over its allocation.

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