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'Missionary Maud one of my biggest influences'

First Minister lists evangelist shot by bandits in Africa, The Queen and Margaret Thatcher as her heroes

By Lisa Smyth

Published 24/05/2016

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster meeting Maud Kells
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster meeting Maud Kells

The First Minister has named Maud Kells - the Cookstown missionary shot by bandits in the Democratic Republic of Congo - as one of her greatest influences.

Arlene Foster paid warm tribute to Ms Kells - who was shot outside her home in the African jungle in January 2015 - in a lecture to honour the role of former Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri in the peace process.

Mrs Foster was invited to deliver the annual Holkeri lecture at Queen's University Belfast yesterday and singled out Ms Kells, the Queen and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as three important female influences on her life.

The DUP leader told the audience she has had the privilege of meeting Ms Kells on a number of occasions and that she would be embarrassed at being mentioned.

"But I believe she deserves to be," she said.

"Maud is a woman who epitomises leadership and peace-building.

"She has shown great strength. She has shown courage and has led by example.

"For nearly 50 years, Maud lived and worked as a missionary in Congo, training local people in nursing.

"Despite being shot by bandits at the age of 75, she continues her work there, leading local people in faith and leading them in the provision of care." Mrs Foster continued: "From Maud in particular, I see elements of leadership which I will certainly try to emulate.

"The strength of the relationship between leader and followers; to lead through example, commitment, energy, belief and ambition; and to transform through collaboration.

"Former US president Theodore Roosevelt is said to have observed: 'People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care'."

The lecture series was launched in 2013 in honour of Harri Holkeri's role in forging the Good Friday Agreement together with George Mitchell and John de Chastelain.

Yesterday's lecture was entitled Women, Leadership and Peace-building.

Mrs Foster said she has been touched by leaders of quiet influence throughout her life, including during her time with the Brownies, Girl Guides and later at Collegiate Grammar School in Enniskillen, which she said helped mould her into the person she is today.

She also mentioned Mrs Thatcher, who she said divided opinion but defined leadership.

She continued: "I can't help but have a great admiration for a formidable woman who thrived in a man's world.

"I am also a keen royalist, and, again, whether you are fans of the monarchy or not, no one can argue with Her Majesty The Queen's pedigree when it comes to leadership," she added.

"Queen Elizabeth II may be small in stature but even now, at 90 years of age, she remains a towering presence.

"She is humble and yet inspires great pride.

"She is also a source of inspiration and has rightly earned unparalleled respect, both here at home and across the globe.

"Her longevity and contribution to society is truly remarkable."

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