Thursday 18 January 2018

'I am truly humbled' - Northern Ireland Arlene Foster takes over Northern Ireland First Minister

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster
Northern Ireland's outgoing First Minister Peter Robinson

David Young, Michael McHugh and Lesley-Anne McKeown

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has been appointed Northern Ireland's new First Minister.

Mrs Foster has taken over from the retiring Peter Robinson.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative is the first woman to be appointed to one of the power-sharing Executive's two top jobs.

Her elevation was confirmed during the first Assembly sitting of the new year at Parliament Buildings in Belfast.

The 45-year-old, from Co Fermanagh, has already replaced Mr Robinson as leader of the region's largest political party - the Democratic Unionists.

Mr Robinson, 67, announced his intention to retire from frontline politics last November, days after signing a political deal with Sinn Fein and the British and Irish Governments to stabilise the rocking administration.

Northern Ireland's outgoing First Minister Peter Robinson
Northern Ireland's outgoing First Minister Peter Robinson

The transition of power has been smooth, with Mrs Foster facing no challengers within the DUP.

The married mother-of-three, who defected to the DUP from the Ulster Unionists in 2004, has assumed office alongside long-serving Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

Mrs Foster said she took great pride in being the first woman to hold the office, and also its youngest incumbent.

"Mr Speaker, it was with great humility, an enormous sense of responsibility and the imagination of endless potential for Northern Ireland that I affirmed the pledge of office and take up this post today," she said.

"I can think of no greater honour than to have the opportunity to serve my country and the people of Northern Ireland as their First Minister.

"I am truly humbled by the trust and confidence which has been placed in me and grateful for all those who have kept me in their prayers in recent days.

"As a young girl growing up in rural Fermanagh, the most westerly constituency in the whole of the United Kingdom, in the days when we were plagued by terrorism and decisions affecting our fates and our futures were taken far away, I could not have dreamt that I would be in this position today.

"Is it any wonder that in politics I believe that nothing is impossible?

"But the real measure of success is not in obtaining the office but in how it enables me to help others realise their dreams, ambitions and aspirations.

"For my part I want to make sure what is possible for me is possible for any young boy or girl growing up in Northern Ireland."

She described her appointment as "historic".

"I take great pride in the fact that since Northern Ireland was created almost a century ago I am the first woman to hold such a post," she told a packed Assembly chamber.

"It was with even greater trepidation still that I learned I am also the youngest person to have assumed this post.

"I hope that I can bring the perspectives that both these attributes have to the office."

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