Political news

None of the DUP colleagues who moved to oust me have spoken to me since, Arlene Foster says

Arlene Foster announces her resignation on Wednesday

Arlene Foster has said none of the DUP party colleagues who moved to oust her from leadership have spoken to her since.

Mrs Foster said she still had not seen the letter of no confidence that was signed by a majority of the DUP's senior elected representatives.

Mrs Foster said she would wait until she steps down as first minister at the end of June before outlining her intention on whether she will leave the DUP altogether.

The first minister said she was "at peace with her decision" to quit local politics.

"It's been a turbulent week, it's been a week where I've had to make pretty big decisions," she said.

"But I think the time is right to move on and to do something different, and that's what I'll do."

She added: "I still haven't seen the letter that was talked about so I presume I will see that at some stage."

Read more: John Manley: Me, Arlene and every jot and tittle (premium)

On a visit to Kirkistown Primary School in Co Down, Arlene Foster said: "Politics is a very brutal game I think everybody knows that to be the case. I haven't actually spoken to any of the colleagues who are purported to have signed the letters, they haven't been in touch. So, you know, that's a matter for them. I'll move on and look forward and I'm looking forward to the next chapter as to what I'm going to do with my life."

Mrs Foster said she hoped the DUP would continue to "look forward".

"I joined a party that wanted to look forward, that wanted to build a Northern Ireland for everybody, that recognised that there was divisions in society and to try and deal with those divisions and to move Northern Ireland to a better place and I hope that's the direction of the party that continues," she said.

Arlene Foster continued: "It was made clear to me by the number of people who felt that they wanted to sign the letter, which as I say I haven't seen yet, that I didn't have the support of my colleagues and when you don't have the support of your colleagues you really can't continue in the job as party leader.

"So the time is right to move on, to do something different and do something new and I'm very much looking forward to that challenge."

Mrs Foster made clear that some of her "very good friends" did not sign the letter of no confidence.

"I think you should also recognise that not everybody signed the letter, some very good friends did not. And I think you should note that as well," she said.

The DUP leader added: "I haven't really had any engagement from any of the colleagues who felt that I should leave, so I suppose that's the disappointment - that I don't actually know what the reason is for it, but, as I say, you know, that's politics, all political careers have to come to an end, mine will come to an end at the end of June."

Arlene Foster confirmed she would be stepping down as an Assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Asked whether she would like to join the Lords, she said those decisions were not made by her.

She said she wished whoever leads the party well, but she would not be drawn on who she would be supporting in any leadership contest.

"I don't know who the next leader of the party is going to be, I don't know what their policies are going to be, undoubtedly we'll hear more of that in the coming weeks, but I am simply saying to you that I hope that, as the largest party and as the largest Unionist Party, that is a positive message that we're bringing forward to the future, because I think there's a very positive story to tell," she said.

Mrs Foster said she hoped devolution was not at risk.

"The future of Northern Ireland is very much tied up with devolution and being able to take those decisions locally, it's very important," she said.

Read more: John Manley: Me, Arlene and every jot and tittle (premium)

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