Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster says calls for her to step down are misogynistic - but not everyone is convinced


Arlene Foster is the first female First Minister for Northern Ireland, and it's by no means been plain sailing for her. She is currently under fire for her role in a botched green energy scheme with many demanding her resignation. Foster claims this is misogynistic, but not everyone is so sure.

"A lot of it is personal, a lot of it sadly is misogynistic as well because I am a female - the first female leader of Northern Ireland - so I firmly believe that is the case as well," she said.

Arlene Foster
(Liam McBurney/PA)

Foster is in hot water over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme she oversaw during her time as economy minister, which has left Stormont facing an overspend bill of around £500 million. Sinn Fein, Foster's Democratic Unionist Party's partners in government, are calling for Foster to temporarily stand down to facilitate a probe.

While many of Foster's critics are men, a number of leading female politicians at Stormont have also heavily criticised her handling of the affair, among them Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and Sinn Fein health minister Michelle O'Neill.

Arlene Foster
(Liam McBurney/PA)

Foster told Sky News she had no plans to resign, saying: "Simply because I am a woman doesn't mean I am going to roll over to Sinn Fein - I am not going to roll over to Sinn Fein, I am not going to roll over to my political opponents."

However, the vast majority of people are unsure about her argument for misogyny. In fact, most think that calls for her to step down are over her perceived misconduct as opposed to sexism.

Many other Northern Irish politicians agree with these sentiments. SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon said the issue was about "incompetence", not gender.

Some people think that this misogyny argument is a poor attempt to defend her role in the RHI debacle.

Some think that the only way this situation could be perceived as sexist is if Foster wasn't made accountable for her actions.

Indeed Long said: "I'm surprised Arlene sees this as misogynistic as opposed to being held to account in the same manner as her male predecessor in a previous scandal of much lesser financial importance."

Many feel her sudden argument for sexism is somewhat oddly timed.

Whereas there are some who agree with Foster and hope that she remains in power.

There is also an argument that while calls for Foster's resignation weren't sexist, the way she has been treated since speaking out certainly has been.

If Sinn Fein do indeed follow through with their threats to collapse the Stormont Executive if Foster doesn't temporarily stand down, Northern Ireland could soon be facing a snap Assembly election - less than a year after the last one.