Arlene Foster describes calls for resignation as 'misogynistic'

It comes as Belfast City Council passed a motion for a full inquiry into the controversial 'cash-for-ash' scheme

Arlene Foster describes calls for resignation as 'misogynistic'

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster speaking to the Press Association at her office in Stormont Castle, Belfast | Image: Niall Carson PA Wire/PA Images

Arlene Foster says she will not be stepping down as Northern Ireland’s First Minister and has described calls for her to do so as "misogynistic".

The Democratic Unionist leader told Sky News she was ready for an election if Sinn Fein pulls out of the power-sharing government over a public finance scandal.

Mrs Foster said: "There's a lot of it personal.  There's a lot of it, sadly, misogynistic as well, because I'm a female, the first female leader of Northern Ireland.

"I've come through a lot worse than venomous attacks from my political opponents and I intend to continue to lead.

"It's no secret that during my childhood, the IRA tried to murder my father.  It's no secret that in the past, the IRA put a bomb on my school bus.  So do I really think that I'm going to step aside at the behest of Sinn Fein?  No I'm not," she added.

Mrs Foster, who was elected First Minister a year ago, has been under pressure over a botched renewable energy scheme, which could cost taxpayers more than £400 million.

She was Enterprise Minister when the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive was established in Northern Ireland.

A lack of cost controls meant businesses were receiving more in subsidies than they were paying for renewable fuel and the scheme was drastically oversubscribed.

Opposition parties tabled a motion of no confidence in the First Minister shortly before Christmas. She survived the motion.

Every party but the Democratic Unionists dramatically walked out of the Northern Ireland Assembly when Mrs Foster rose to make a statement on the crisis.

"Why would I stand aside? I've done nothing wrong," she told Sky News.

"There hasn't even been an investigation into this matter. The Public Accounts Committee have not finished their investigation. I want an inquiry to take place.

"Meanwhile, Sinn Fein are on a party political mission to get me to step aside, to weaken Unionism, which I will never allow to happen.  

"Just because I'm a woman, it doesn't mean I'm going to roll over to Sinn Fein. I'm not going to roll over to Sinn Fein.  I'm not going to roll over to my political opponents.

"I'm going to deal with the issues in front of me because that's what the electorate want me to do."