Northern Ireland’s first minister has paid the price for believing the promises of the hard Brexiteers
If 23 out of your 27 devolved assembly members, plus four of your eight Westminster MPs, along with lots of your local councillors and party members, have all signed letters calling on you to resign, then politically speaking, you are already toast. This was Arlene Foster’s unhappy fate, duly confirmed today. For the Democratic Unionist party leader and Northern Ireland first minister, it is the end of the road.
Foster’s ousting has many causes and it will have many consequences. It is also an event without local precedent. Remarkably, the DUP has never in its history had a leadership contest (nor, of course, has its rival, Sinn Féin). The DUP’s no-surrender founder, Ian Paisley, led the party into a power-sharing government without being seriously challenged. His successor, Peter Robinson, survived a marital crisis without losing his grip over his socially conservative party. Foster also toughed out the “cash for ash” renewable energy scheme scandal, which shut down the Northern Ireland assembly for three years from January 2017.