Northern Ireland

Arlene Foster backed to be DUP leader after Nigel Dodds decision

Arlene Foster
Image caption Mrs Foster's nomination was submitted with the support of more than 75% of those entitled to vote in the electoral college.

Arlene Foster has been nominated for the position of DUP leader with the backing of a majority of the party's most senior elected representatives.

It comes after the party's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, ruled himself out of the race to succeed outgoing leader Peter Robinson.

It is understood East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson is still considering whether to run for the position.

Mr Robinson announced in November that he was standing down as party leader.

In a tweet on Monday night, Mr Robinson said he had "received a valid nomination" from Mrs Foster for the post of DUP leader.

"Arlene's nomination was submitted with the support of over 75% of those entitled to vote in the electoral college," he added.

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Media captionNigel Dodds said he wanted to concentrate on his work as head of the DUP at Westminster

Earlier, Mr Dodds said he wanted to concentrate on his work as head of the party at Westminster.

He backed Mrs Foster, the Northern Ireland finance minister, "to take the party and Northern Ireland forward".

What happens now?

Nominations for the post of DUP leader close on Wednesday

An election (if there is one) will take place on Thursday 17 December.

He said he had always believed that he would only put his name forward for the leadership, if he were a member of the Stormont Assembly.

He said he had gone on record to say that it would be a disadvantage to attempt to lead the DUP from Westminster.

"I remain of the view that being at Westminster means I would not be able to devote the necessary day-to-day focus and time to the role of leader and, at the same time, properly and fully carry out my duties and responsibilities in the House of Commons," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dream team? Many DUP members expected Mr Dodds, left, and Mrs Foster to succeed Peter Robinson

"The work and the opportunities for Northern Ireland at Westminster have already grown significantly and especially recently as a result of the DUP's position in a House of Commons where the Government has such a small majority.

"That work, and those opportunities, are only set to increase over the course of the five years of this parliamentary term."

Mr Dodds said that in other circumstances, it would be "natural and a great honour to lead the party," however, in his circumstances, it would be "wrong" to put his own personal standing above what he believed were the best interests of the DUP.

By Chris Page, BBC NI Political Reporter

Mr Dodds says his priority has always been the party and the country - not himself - and his decision is true to that principle.

The North Belfast MP says his choice was a difficult one.

There was emotion in his voice as he told journalists it would be wrong to put his own personal standing above the best interests of the party. Read more

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Nigel and Diane Dodds sign a book of condolence for former DUP leader and first minister Ian Paisley in 2014

It is believed Sammy Wilson is considering running for DUP leader, in light of Mr Dodds's decision.

Last week, he ruled himself out but it is understood he is now reconsidering. He is expected to announce his decision on Tuesday.

In November, Mr Robinson announced that he was to quit as Northern Ireland first minister and DUP leader after "stabilising" Stormont.

Mr Dodds has had a long career with the DUP. He qualified in law with a first class degree from Cambridge but found his future in politics.

In 1988, he was elected as the Lord Mayor of Belfast, at the age of 29.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Not following the leader: Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds earlier this year

His political success and profile soon secured him a seat at the local assembly. He was then elected as an MP for North Belfast in 2001.

Previously, he had spent time working in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and his wife, Diane, is currently one of Northern Ireland's three MEPs.

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