Arlene Foster is N.I.’s
First Female First Minister
By R. Bryan Willits, Editorial Assistant
February / March 2016
Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, the largest political party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, officially began her tenure as First Minister of Northern Ireland in January, making her the youngest person, at 45, and the first woman to fill that position.
Foster has represented Fermanagh and South Tyrone in the Northern Ireland Assembly since 2003, and took over from Peter Robinson as the head of her party after he stepped down in November.
Fosters ascension to first minister also comes just before the centenary of the Easter Rising, a point that was not lost on Foster, who in a BBC interview stated that she would not travel to Dublin for the official centenary celebrations and said that it would not be right for her to take part in the commemorations since she believed firmly in democracy and the Union.
“Easter 1916 was a very violent attack on the state,” said Foster, “and it wasn’t just an attack on the state. It was an attack against democracy at that time.” She also believes the commemorations give succor to violent republicanism.
In response, Taoiseach Enda Kenny argued that the events would be put together in a “very sensitive, comprehensive, inclusive way” and reminded Foster that there were “people of the nationalist persuasion in Northern Ireland” who have attended many events related to sensitive issues. Despite her original statements, Foster’s intransigence has since faded and said that she would participate in a symposium that would explore the consequences of the Rising saying, “Will I go and discuss historical significance, will I go and have other conversations about what happened in 1916? Yes, I will of course.” ♦