Arlene Foster confirms resignation as DUP Leader and Northern Ireland First Minister

Arlene Foster has faced mounting criticism over her handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol

"These stories come up from time to time".

Northern Ireland Assembly lawmakers from the Democratic Unionist Party have been asked to sign a letter of no-confidence in party leader Arlene Foster.

It is only a small number of the DUP membership who will get to vote in a leadership contest - MLAs and MPs.

The new arrangements have angered Northern Ireland's British unionists, who say the new checks amount to a border in the Irish Sea and weaken ties with the rest of the UK.

This leadership election will be held over the coming weeks.

Wells also told the News Letter that party members were unhappy that MLA Diane Dodds attended a recent north-south ministerial meeting, despite the fact that the party is now boycotting such meetings over objections to the Northern Irish protocol.

For some time there have been rumblings of discontent, but Mrs Foster's internal enemies have lacked the numbers, or the courage, to act against her.

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

"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", it said.

"So we'll just deal with it and move on because I've bigger things to do, including getting us through this Covid pandemic, including listening to the concerns of working-class communities", she said.

Critics have accused Mrs Foster of failing to use the party's influence at Westminster - particularly during its confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives - to secure a Brexit deal that saw Northern Ireland leave the European Union on the same terms as the rest of the UK.

Mrs Foster and four party colleagues, including fellow Stormont Executive minister Peter Weir and Diane Dodds, abstained in the vote on the substantive motion, rather than opposing it.

"Sinn Féin will work with all parties to progress social reform, political change and economic prosperity - but we will robustly oppose damaging policies or regressive throwback politics of the past", Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said in a statement. People are panicking and thinking we must do something. I think it's important to note that there is a big job to do.

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