Mrs Foster is in the car but it’s being driven by Nigel Dodds

Interesting analysis piece from the Irish News Political Correspondent, John Manley

Even though the consensus suggests the so-called accommodation was a poor deal for republicans, the level of resistance from within the DUP and broader unionism to what was in the proposals appears to have surprised Mrs Foster and her advisors. Since the talks collapsed, the Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA has met the DUP’s ruling executive and she says they have backed her leadership. Arguably that confidence is justified – Mrs Foster offset a Sinn Féin surge in last year’s assembly elections with her party’s strongest ever Westminster result.

However, with the return of the executive looking unlikely any time soon, questions are bound to be asked about Mrs Foster’s relevance in her role as a ‘leader without office’.

In December, University of Liverpool academic Jon Tonge characterised the former first minister as having “responsibility without power”, given that her party’s focus was shifting from Stormont to Westminster and that she was increasingly being eclipsed by her deputy Nigel Dodds. That was in the wake of the DUP rejecting a reported deal on the border between the EU and British government.

The author of DUP: From Protest to Power said: “Mrs Foster is in the car but it’s being driven by Nigel Dodds.” If anything, the situation for the DUP leader has only deteriorated since and the low profile Mrs Foster has adopted over the past couple of weeks is likely to become the norm – at least until her much-anticipated appearance at the RHI inquiry.

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