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DUP reshuffle ‘disappointing but not surprising’, says ‘taken out’ Arlene Foster 

Outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster described the DUP reshuffle as “disappointing but not surprising” saying she agreed with colleagues it was not helping mend internal bridges within the party. 

She has also expressed sadness at the manner in which she was “taken out” of her role.

Speaking in Belfast on Thursday morning, Mrs Foster said she agreed with outgoing Education Minister Peter Weir and Economy Minister Diane Dodds that Edwin Poots’ ministerial reshuffle earlier this week does not show signs of healing the party.

She added: “I was disappointed but not entirely surprised.”

Her comments come amid continuing acrimony and bitterness within party ranks at the manner in which supporters of Poots instigated an internal revolt against the former DUP leader.

Mrs Foster said she may carry out further engagements over the weekend and hopes to make a final statement in the Assembly on Monday before leaving her position as First Minister.

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On Tuesday Mr Poots confirmed Paul Givan as the DUP nomination to replace Mrs Foster as First Minister.

Mrs Foster’s resignation will trigger a process that will require an Assembly vote on both Mr Givan’s nomination as First Minister and Michelle O’Neill’s renomination as Sinn Fein deputy First Minister.

There have been concerns that this process could become a political friction point.

“I’ve loved representing the people of Northern Ireland - it has been the greatest privilege of my life. I am of course feeling a mixture of emotions - sad that I was taken out of my position in the manner in which I was taken out,” Mrs Foster said following a visit to the Museum of Orange Heritage in east Belfast.

“I’m exited by the opportunities. I’m 50 now as everybody famously knows so now is a good time to have a change,” she added.

Mrs Foster is due to chair her last Executive meeting on Thursday.

Stormont ministers have been urged to give the green light for the return of live music from June 21 when they meet for their weekly review of coronavirus regulations.

Mrs Foster also said she looked forward to welcoming political leaders to a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Co Fermanagh on Friday.

The event will be her last major political event as leader of the Stormont Executive.

Friday’s BIC summit, is the first non-virtual leaders’ gathering since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The heads of the devolved UK governments and Crown dependencies, such as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, will be meeting to discuss a wide range of issues, with Covid recovery expected to top the agenda.

“I think it’s actually a nice circle to finish off my local political career in Co Fermanagh and to do it there is a great honour,” Mrs Foster said.

Asked if this would be her final event as First Minister, Mrs Foster said she "might" do something on Saturday and Sunday.

Mrs Foster said she hopes to make a final address to MLAs in the Assembly chamber.

“I think the Speaker is going to accommodate me in making a personal statement,” she said.

“I haven’t spoken to the Speaker yet, but hopefully I’ll speak to him in the near future.”

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