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'I lost friends over it' - DUP leader Arlene Foster on attending funeral of Martin McGuinness in 2017

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Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness pictured at 10 Downing Street in October 2016. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness pictured at 10 Downing Street in October 2016. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

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Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness pictured at 10 Downing Street in October 2016. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

DUP leader Arlene Foster has revealed she lost long-standing friends over her decision to attend the funeral of Martin McGuinness.

But she said she has no regrets over attending the funeral mass in Derry in 2017 to pay her respects to the former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland.

Ms Foster also spoke of being on a school bus that was bombed by dissident republicans when she was child, and how her father was shot by the IRA.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on the RTÉ Late Late Show Ms Foster said attending the funeral of the former IRA commander was "the right Christian thing to do".

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Arlene Foster and Bishop John McKeown arriving for the funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Arlene Foster and Bishop John McKeown arriving for the funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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“Obviously I was apprehensive over going to the funeral. I didn’t know what sort of reception I’d get, but I was welcomed,” she said.

“I lost friends over going to the funeral,” she said.

“It was difficult. These were people I’d known for a long time but they take a different view in relation to this,” she said.

“I took the view that I served with him in government, that I worked with him in government and it was only the right, the Christian thing to do to pay my respects to somebody who had passed away.

“As a leader you have things to do that you may not do if you were just an ordinary citizen and that's why I had to do it.”

Arlene Foster speaks to Ryan Tubridy about Brexit and Boris Johnson. Watch The Late Late Show live and on-demand from anywhere in the world at http://www.rte.ie/player

Asked if her family objected to the decision, she said no.

“My family understood I was going to Martin McGuinness’ funeral as a First Minister,” she said of her role alongside Mr McGuinness in the power sharing agreement.

Mrs Foster was mid-way through the interview when the UK formally left the EU at 11pm.

“We are leaving the European Union tonight, the United Kingdom leaves, but that doesn't mean we are not still neighbours and I wanted to send out message that we are and will continue to be neighbours,” she said.

Mrs Foster said it was right not be triumphalist about Brexit.

“I am pleased that the UK has respected the vote that was taken right across the nation but I can understand there are many people who will not be celebrating tonight because they feel sad about that,” she said.

With additional reporting by the Press Association

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