First woman elected as leader of Northern Ireland’s DUP
Arlene Foster replaces Peter Robinson as DUP leader after he resigned last month.
Arlene Foster has been elected as the first female party leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) by the party’s MPs and assembly members.
The DUP’s 90-member executive confirmed Mrs Foster’s appointment, after she was the only candidate to stand for leader.
Mrs Foster – the Stormont’s current finance minister – has represented the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency since 2003.
Following her election, she said it was an “enormous honour and an even greater responsibility” to take up the role.
“It is truly humbling to follow in the footsteps of political giants like Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson.
“For much of the last 40 years this party toiled in the political wilderness but today we stand tall as the largest unionist party and the party of Northern Ireland,” she added.
“That is down to the hard work and efforts of those who have gone before me.
“I want to build on the firm foundations that have been laid and take this party from strength to strength.”
Mrs Foster replaces Peter Robinson – who announced his plans to step down as DUP leader and Northern Ireland first minister last month.
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Mr Robinson – who has previously resigned and un-resigned as First Minister – has been criticised for his strong opposition to equal marriage.
However, the DUP’s stance is unlikely to change under Mrs Foster’s leadership, after she insisted that same-sex marriage isn’t needed because gay couples can have civil partnerships.
Same-sex weddings are now permitted in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland – but continue to be blocked in Northern Ireland by the DUP.
Last month, a majority of the Northern Irish Assembly voted in favour of equal marriage by 53 to 51 – but the Democratic Unionist Party used a ‘petition of concern’ to strike proposals down for a fifth time.
The party has been criticised for “abusing” petitions of concern, which were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support between Unionists and Nationalists and allows MLAs to ‘veto’ legislation they deem to harm one community.