Dodds v Foster: who will be the next leader of the DUP?

DUP leader Peter Robinson (centre) with Nigel Dodds (left) and Arlene Foste, at Stormont in Belfast. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Nigel Dodds

The 57-year-old MP for North Belfast is viewed as the most likely successor to

Peter Robinson

as DUP leader. Born in Derry and educated in Enniskillen, he is a graduate of Cambridge with a first-class law degree. He came to prominence as assistant to

Ian Paisley


during part of his time as MEP. His wife, Diane, is current DUP MEP. They have two children.

He is DUP deputy leader and has long been close to Peter Robinson. He served twice as Belfast lord mayor. When the DUP decided to take its two ministries in the first Executive of 1999 but refused to engage in cabinet work, Dodds was appointed minister for social development. He also served as minister for finance, before focusing on Westminster.

If he becomes leader there will be some interest in how he will interact with Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. Considering their IRA past, that relationship might not be chummy: in 1996 the IRA wounded an RUC officer who was protecting Dodds as he and his wife visited their seriously ill son Andrew at the Royal Victoria Hospital, in west Belfast.

Arlene Foster

The 45-year-old Minister for Finance and Assembly member for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, is considered most likely to take over as first minister. In January 2010 she filled in as acting first minister during the Irisgate scandal, a role she reprised when Robinson recently stood aside during the controversy following the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

Married with three children, her political life began at Queen's, where she graduated with a law degree. She was a leading member of the UUP, but in 2004, with fellow UUP MLAs Jeffrey Donaldson and Norah Beare, she jumped ship to the DUP, where she has prospered. As well as finance, she also served as minister for the environment and enterprise, trade and industry.

Similar to Nigel Dodds, it will be interesting to observe how she personally relates to McGuinness and Adams. As a young schoolgirl, then Arlene Kelly, the IRA tried to kill her father, a part-time member of the RUC.

In 1988 she survived an IRA bomb that exploded under her school bus being driven by a UDR soldier.


Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times