By David Young, PA
Arlene Foster praised Steve Aiken for his “straightforward and honourable” nature as she wished the outgoing UUP leader well.
Mr Aiken’s resignation announcement comes 10 days after Mrs Foster was herself forced to resign as DUP leader and First Minister following an internal heave against her.
On Saturday, she was among politicians from across the island of Ireland to send well wishes to the departing UUP leader.
“I was in contact with Steve earlier today to wish him and his family well for the future,” she tweeted.
“In all our dealings, as party leaders, I found him to be very straightforward & honourable.”
Taoiseach Micheal Martin tweeted: “Wishing @SteveAikenUUP all the best as he prepares to step down as UUP leader.
“While we often had different perspectives, I always valued our discussions and engagement.”
On Twitter, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “I’ve always enjoyed working with @SteveAikenUUP Wishing him all the best for the next chapter.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long noted there had now been two major changes of leadership within unionism in a short period of time.
“There’ll be plenty of time for analysis later but, for now, I want to wish @SteveAikenUUP well for the future,” she tweeted.
“Despite our political differences, he’s always respectful and courteous in any exchanges.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said the political flux could not distract unionists from their campaign against Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol.
“With leadership changes affecting the other two unionist parties, this, clearly, is an unsettled time within the unionist family,” he said.
“I wish both Arlene Foster and Steve Aiken well in their future paths and acknowledge I found both straightforward and honourable to deal with, whatever our differences.
“It is, of course, a matter exclusively for the DUP and the UUP as to who they choose as their respective leaders.
“My hope is that their choices will be dedicated to the common unionist goal of defeating the Union-dismantling Protocol."