Northern Ireland

Arlene Foster looks set to replace Peter Robinson as DUP leader

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Media captionArlene Foster told the BBC she was up for the challenge of leading the DUP

Arlene Foster looks set to be the next leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as no other DUP member has put their name forward for the role.

The current leader Peter Robinson said on Twitter that he will step down on 11 January, the day MLAs are due to return to Stormont after the Christmas break.

Mr Robinson added the deadline for nominations to replace him has passed and Mrs Foster is the only candidate.

She said she is "up for the challenge" and will work with Sinn Féin.

'Exciting time'

"I'm looking forward to leading the Democratic Unionist Party, if that's the will of the party, because I believe I have the vision, the ability to take the party forward into what I've said is the next 100 years of Northern Ireland," Mrs Foster said.

She added that it would be an "exciting time" for unionists because Northern Ireland celebrates the centenary of its foundation as a state in 2021.

Mrs Foster is Northern Ireland's finance minister and has held a number of ministerial posts since 2007.

She is a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) but opposed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and defected to the DUP in 2004.

However, she told the BBC she was prepared to lead a government alongside Sinn Féin

"I have worked with Sinn Féin, I recognise that they have a mandate in terms of the numbers that they have that give them seats in the executive," said said.

"I have worked there since 2007 as the minister of the environment, then as the minister for enterprise trade and investment and now the minister for finance.

"I'll continue to work for what is right for Northern Ireland and what is good for the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Robinson said the proposal to endorse Mrs Foster as DUP leader will be "put to a specially convened meeting of the DUP electoral college" next Thursday, 17 December.

He said the electoral college's decision will then be put to the DUP's central executive committee, for "ratification immediately thereafter".

Earlier on Wednesday, DUP MP Sammy Wilson ruled himself out of the contest.

Mrs Foster has also been tipped to replace Mr Robinson as first minister of Northern Ireland.

She has served as acting first minister on two occasions, when Mr Robinson stepped aside temporarily in 2010 and again earlier this year.

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