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Brexit: 'Nonsense' to suggest Arlene Foster has lost her mandate to lead Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

Published 04/07/2016

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

Concerns that Arlene Foster cannot lead Northern Ireland as First Minister following a majority vote here for the UK to remain in the EU have been described as "nonsense".

While the UK as a whole voted by a narrow majority for a Brexit - which was backed by the DUP leader - Northern Ireland voted 56% in favour of remaining.

Asked whether she can continue to lead the province when many don't back her views on Brexit, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "It is nonsense to say that because people in Northern Ireland voted in the way that they did in the referendum that the DUP's mandate is not as strong as it was.

"I think we got a very clear, very strong, resounding mandate in the Assembly election. That stands.

"We are determined that we have a job to do. Yes, this changes things, but our job remains the same.

"Arlene is fantastically well positioned, and has been proving herself over nearly 10 years in a range of different departments as being absolutely up for and capable of doing this job."

Mr Hamilton added that "Arlene is performing superbly well as First Minister".

"These are incredibly challenging times and one of the biggest issues facing British politics and British society in our lifetimes," he said.

"That has ramifications for Northern Ireland, and we need that strong, steady leadership that Arlene is offering."

Asked whether the DUP's decision to back a Brexit had caused a split in the party, he said: "Arlene said at the time that there will be members of the party, people who supported the party, who would vote to remain.

"But the party took the view that it did.

"I think it was the right decision to do.

"It reflected where our electorate was on this issue."

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