Arlene Foster's leadership of DUP could be coming to end

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UTV understands a motion of no confidence in DUP leader Arlene Foster has been signed by around 80% of the party's MLAs and MPs.

This follows a letter signed by three quarters of the DUP's Assembly members calling for a leadership contest.

The first minister of Northern Ireland announced her resignation in a statement on Wednesday (28 April), just 24 hours after details of the party's sensational heave to have her removed as leader leaked to the media.

While the European Union has said it will not consider scrapping the Protocol, some party members have demanded a harder line.

She also acknowledges the hard issues that have been faced in recent times.

She described her leadership of Northern Ireland as "the privilege of my life".

Mrs Foster was quizzed on the matter during a visit to a youth centre in Belfast on Tuesday afternoon.

"These stories come up from time to time".

While this is normally seen as a rubber stamping exercise, the scale of the rebellion suggests that it could be used as an opportunity to oust her unless she steps down or agrees to a challenge.

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The move against Foster, who has led the party since 2015, is the latest sign of how Britain's economic split from the European Union at the end of 2020 has shaken the political balance in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom where some people identify as British and some as Irish.

Foster said she will complete work on "a number of important issues for Northern Ireland" in the coming weeks before she steps down from her position.

However, sources later said that the meeting had merely been rescheduled for Thursday.

'Whilst understanding that there will be from time-to-time public interest in party processes, these issues, in the first instance, are matters for members of the party and we are not able to make any further comment at this time'.

Arlene Foster's leadership appears to be hanging by a thread.

The paper also referred to internal discontent at Mrs Foster's handling of the Brexit process, amid anger being directed at the DUP from some within the broader unionist and loyalist community for the emergence of an Irish Sea border.

It all comes down to a numbers game as the party's elected representatives are invited to take sides.

Mrs Foster's decision to abstain in a vote on gay conversion therapy last week appears to have further agitated sections of the party's grassroots.

Early indications suggest it may not end well for Mrs Foster.

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