Foster becomes first woman selected to lead Assembly
Published 12/01/2016 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is looking forward to working with the North's new First Minister, Arlene Foster, as she was elected to the role at an important time for Northern Ireland ahead of elections in May.
Ms Foster, an MLA for Fermanagh, is the first woman to hold the post and, at 45, is also the youngest.
Congratulating her on her election, Mr Kenny said he is looking forward to continuing to work with Ms Foster to meet challenges and to develop opportunities to benefit all communities across the island of Ireland.
Speaking as she took office, Ms Foster insisted that it is a "moral imperative" that she works for the entire community of Northern Ireland and she wants to see "a new way of doing business" at Stormont with an end to "bickering and not getting things done".
Her power-sharing partner in office, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, said he had been asked repeatedly in recent weeks how he expected to work with Mrs Foster.
"If I can work with Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson I can work with anybody," Mr McGuinness said.
Mrs Foster responded: "I did laugh at that...maybe he thinks I am a softer touch than Ian or Peter."
In her acceptance speech to MLAs following her election yesterday, Ms Foster said: "It is time for a new generation to step forward, to build on all that has been achieved and to move our country forward.
"I want us to live in a more harmonious society, where we seek accommodation with one another, not conflict. Those in positions of responsibility in government cannot do everything, but we can act as an example to others. If only we believe in ourselves, all things are possible.
"I make no apology for being a unionist, but my role as First Minister calls on me to serve the whole community. I see that not just as a legal duty but as a moral imperative."
Speaking later, Ms Foster revealed that the DUP, of which she became leader before Christmas, was prepared to consider allowing a free vote to MLAs on the issue of same -sex marriage - after the party used the Assembly's petition of concern to block a simple overall majority in favour of new legislation last year.
She also said she will consider any invitations she receives on their merits, including from the GAA.