Politics work somewhat differently in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the United Kingdom. In addition, to Northern Ireland's complicated relationship with the U.K., there's its complex relationship with the rest of Ireland. Major political parties in the rest of the U.K. have a very limited presence in its westernmost constituent country. Instead, voters there choose between a selection of regionally-based parties.

The most powerful party in the country has been the Democratic Unionist Party. It promotes a platform of conservatism and remaining in the United Kingdom.

Its leader had been Arlene Foster, who is also the first minister of Northern Ireland. This position could be compared to a state governor in America or a provincial premier in Canada. But her once-popular standing in the DUP has taken a dramatic plummet.

Steps down as party leader, exit from first minister's role soon to follow

Arlene Foster has resigned from the position of leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. She currently remains the first minister, but apparently, she will exit the role by July. Her decision to step aside comes shortly after an overwhelming majority of her caucus withdrew their support. According to MSN, 75 percent of them signed their names to a letter that called for a leadership election.

The major blow to Foster has been Brexit. Matters about Northern Ireland have been largely the most complicated part of the U.K.'s departure from the European Union. It dramatically affects the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and its neighbor. Recent demonstrations in the country took a very violent turn. At least 88 police officers have been injured just in April.

But as indicated by the Belfast Telegraph, there were also other issues. Including a political stalemate that left the Northern Ireland Assembly unable to function. And a scandal involving public spending and a failed incentive scheme centered on wood pellet burning. And, of course, things were made all the more complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Republic of Ireland Prime Minister Micheal Martin both praised Foster. Johnson said he hopes she 'stays in public service for years to come.' Martin spotlighted Foster's personal experience as a victim of violence. He also said she knows how important it is 'to work together for the peace and prosperity of all.' In her youth, both Foster and her father survived attacks from the Irish Republican Army.

Foster held a number of Cabinet positions previously

Arlene Foster began her political career as a member of the Ulster Unionist Party. She was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2003. Foster represents the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone in the country's west.

She later became an Independent before eventually joining the DUP. For several years, she was also a member of the Fermanagh District Council.

Foster was a member of the Cabinets of First Ministers Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson. On two occasions, she would be named acting first minister. Foster became the DUP leader in 2015. She became the official first minister for the first time the next year.

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