Arlene Foster says she still has not seen ‘so-called’ no-confidence letter

Outgoing DUP leader Arlene Foster says she still has not seen the letter of no-confidence at the centre of an internal party coup against her four weeks after first hearing about it.

The letter was said to have been signed by a majority of senior DUP politicians and led to Mrs Foster resignation as both DUP leader and First Minister.

Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots is due to have his election has her successor ratified by the party’s ruling council on Thursday - the day before Mrs Foster is to step down as DUP leader.

She will remain in post as First Minister until the end of June.

Edwin Poots pictured outside DUP party headquarters.

Mr Poots has said he will not take up the role of First Minister, choosing to focus on leading the party and intending to appoint another representative to the post.

During a visit to the Strand Arts Centre in east Belfast on Monday, marking the lifting of more coronavirus restrictions across Northern Ireland, Mrs Foster appeared to cast doubt on the existence of the letter of no-confidence.

“I’m not under any pressure (to step down as First Minister earlier than planned),” she said.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Edwin yet, but I'm sure when I do, we’ll discuss all of those matters.

“He hasn’t been speaking to me as yet and actually I still have yet to see the letter, so-called, and I'm beginning to wonder is there a letter at all - but in any event, I look forward to seeing the letter and I look forward to having that conversation whenever Edwin reaches out.”

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at the Strand Centre Cinema in east Belfast Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Mrs Foster said the letter was supposedly signed by 22 DUP colleagues.

“Some of my colleagues are indicating they were told they were number 22, even though a number of them had been told that,” she added.

“So I would quite like to see the letter just from my own point of view to see what’s in it, and to see what was told to my colleagues.

“It’s now been nearly four weeks since I heard about it and I still haven’t seen it.”

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds at the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Earlier, DUP Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she hoped the party could heal itself following the leadership election.

As she visited the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast city centre, she told reporters: “I obviously have spoken to Edwin, that is critical for the way forward for the party.

“I hope that the party can heal itself and to move forward, because the most important thing that the party can do from now on is to ensure that we attract the greatest and widest proportion of those people who are pro-union voters, those people who are concerned about the economy and who know that we have the policies and the drive and the energy to make Northern Ireland a great place to live, to work and to do business.”