Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster prepares to vacate assembly seat

Arlene Foster is expected to resign from the assembly. Picture by Ronan McGrade

FORMER first minister Arlene Foster is expected to resign her assembly seat today, bringing the curtain down on a Stormont career spanning nearly two decades.

The Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA vacates her seat little over four months since she was ousted as DUP leader.

Mrs Foster was subsequently replaced as first minister in June by Paul Givan.

In the immediate future she is expected to concentrate on her fledgling career as a presenter with GB News, while it is widely thought that the 51-year-old will be offered a place in House of Lords when the next round of peerages is announced by Downing Street.

As revealed by The Irish News in July, Mrs Foster's looks likely to be replaced in the assembly by Fermanagh councillor and one-time DUP press officer Deborah Erskine. The party has one week to nominate a replacement.

The 28-year-old is a close friend and ally of the former DUP leader.

Originally elected to Stormont as an Ulster Unionist in 2003 before resigning from the party to join the DUP the following year, Mrs Foster has held a number of executive roles, beginning as minister for environment in 2007.

She served as economy minister from 2008-2015, before taking the finance and personnel portfolio for nine months.

Mrs Foster succeeded Peter Robinson as first minister in January 2016, however, the institutions collapsed a year later over the controversy surrounding the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), a scheme she oversaw while economy minister.

Despite Sinn Féin initially insisting that it would not restore the executive with the then DUP leader as first minister, Mrs Foster resumed the role after three years following the New Decade New Approach deal in January last year.

She resigned as DUP leader after a majority of MPs and MLAs signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership. There were complaints that she had become "too moderate". Mrs Foster was replaced as leader by Edwin Poots, who himself was dramatically ousted weeks later.

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