DEMOCRATIC Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster is coming under pressure to stand down for the sake of devolution in Northern Ireland.

Talks to form a new power-sharing coalition stumbled yesterday, with a newly resurgent Sinn Fein insisting they would not form a government that included Foster as First Minister.

Reports suggest the beleaguered former First Minister was also coming under pressure from her own party. She is tainted by the Cash For Ash scandal that brought down the last government, and was the unionist in charge when, in last Friday’s snap election, Northern Ireland lost its pro-union majority for the first time since the British partition of Ireland in 1921.

One high-ranking DUP source told the Belfast Telegraph that around a third of the party’s MLAs elected last week felt “angry and let down” by their leader.

“Arlene is determined to brazen it out and that is putting the future of devolution in jeopardy,” he said.

“She was once an asset to our party, but she is now a liability. It’s all about self-preservation - ‘me, me, me, me’. I believe that’s a major miscalculation. Sinn Fein won’t back down on this one. Given their election result they’ve no reason to do so.”

However, he did say Foster still had strong support from her deputy, Nigel Dodds, and from senior party advisers.

The two parties have three weeks to find compromise. When that deadline passes the UK Government is under an obligation to call yet another election, though it seems likely stalemate will lead to Northern Ireland coming under London rule for the first time since 2007, while negotiations continue.

The terms of the Good Friday Agreement mean there must always be a unionist and nationalist party in coalition government in Stormont.

For the last decade, ever since Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were able to broker an agreement, the DUP and Sinn Fein have filled those roles.

But the government collapsed in January, less than a year after elections, after Sinn Fein withdrew support over Foster’s handling of the fallout over the Renewable Heating Incentive, a much-abused environmental scheme that saw farmers earn millions for heating empty sheds, and which will cost the Northern Irish taxpayers millions for years to come.

“Arlene Foster’s position is a matter for herself. Our position is on the record and very clear in relation to what we think needs to happen,” Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill told reporters.

The party have said they are willing to work with another DUP nominee for first minister.

Foster, who survived an IRA bomb attack on her school bus and whose father narrowly avoided being killed in an IRA shooting, has said she will not be dictated to by Sinn Fein.

One other stumbling block are plans to set rights for Irish language speakers into law, a key condition of Sinn Fein’s.It would legally put Gaelic on the same par as English. Foster and the DUP says no.

Meanwhile, news emerged yesterday that McGuinness, has been critically ill in hospital for the last two weeks. McGuinness looked frail back in January when he announced his retirement from politics. It’s understood the 66 year old is suffering a a rare condition that attacks the heart and other vital organs.

The former IRA chief of staff was taken to hospital in Derry.