Northern Ireland news

Former DUP press officer Deborah Erskine set to step into Arlene Foster's shoes

Arlene Foster pictured at the Tory conference with Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture by Twitter

FORMER DUP press officer Deborah Erskine has been formally selected to replace Arlene Foster as MLA for Fermanagh and SouthTyrone, The Irish News understands.

She is expected to succeed the former DUP leader in the assembly within days once Mrs Foster tenders her resignation.

The former first minister had been widely expected to quit her seat at the end of last month, however, it is understood delays ratifying Mrs Erskine's selection held up the process.

After an MLA resigns, there is a window of just one week in which their successor must be nominated and sworn in.

The Irish News revealed in July that Mrs Erskine was earmarked to take her friend and mentor's vacant seat.

It is also understood that Mrs Foster plans to remain a DUP member despite signalling her intention to quit the party after she was ousted earlier this year.

Reports in April said the Fermanagh and SouthTyrone MLA would leave the DUP when she stood down as first minister, suggesting the party was not the one she joined in 2004, when it was led by Rev Ian Paisley.

Mrs Foster stayed away from last Thursday's DUP 50th anniversary dinner, however, during his speech at the event Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said she would "continue to be with us every step of the way into the future".

Earlier this week, she told the BBC" "I'm still going to be involved in politics, I'm still going to talk about politics and advocate in relation to the union because there's a real need to do that and I'll not be walking away from that.

"Anybody that knows me know that would never be the case.”

The former DUP leader turned GB News host spent the start of this week at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

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