LONDON — The leader of Northern Ireland announced her resignation on Wednesday after party members mounted a push to oust her over her handling of the fallout from Brexit and other issues.
Arlene Foster said she would step down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party on May 28 and as First Minister of Northern Ireland at the end of June.
Foster said it had been “the privilege of my life” to serve the people of Northern Ireland.
“I have sought to lead the party and Northern Ireland away from division and towards a better path,” she said in a televised statement.
Foster’s position became untenable after many Democratic Unionist Party lawmakers signed a letter of no-confidence in her.
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 UK where some people identify as British and some as Irish.
Post-Brexit trade rules have imposed customs and border checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The arrangement was designed to avoid checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an EU member, because an open Irish border has helped underpin the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
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.
Tensions over the new rules were a contributing factor to a week of street violence in Northern Ireland cities earlier this month that saw youths pelt police with bricks, fireworks and petrol bombs.
Foster and other prominent DUP politicians are facing the wrath of party members for backing the divorce agreement that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck with the EU.
Foster also has alienated sections of the conservative, Protestant party by taking a too-liberal stand on social issues. Some are angry that Foster did not join most of her DUP colleagues in voting against a move to ban “gay conversion” therapy last week in the Northern Ireland Assembly.