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Arlene Foster a 'breath of fresh air' for DUP's leadership says Kyle Paisley

By Jonny Bell and Liam Clarke

The son of the founding father of the DUP has welcomed Arlene Foster's imminent coronation as the new leader of the party saying she would bring a breath of fresh air.

Arlene Foster will today be crowned Peter Robinson's successor as DUP leader and First Minister.

Kyle Paisley, brother to Ian and son of the late Lord Bannside who led the party for almost four decades, currently ministers in the Suffolk area of England.

He said he was "glad" to see Mrs Foster take on the party's leadership.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, he said: "She is a very capable individual. I have not studied her political career in any great depth but the little I have seen her do I think she is very capable.

"I think she will bring a breath of fresh air to it, as there has never been a women leading unionism in Northern Ireland.

"It'll be new for Northern Ireland, new for unionism, but that might broaden the appeal of the party to have that."

On Nigel Dodds, Rev Paisley said it wasn't surprising that the deputy leader did not run for the party leadership as he had "made his reasons abundantly clear".

Asked if he was sorry the North Belfast MP did not run for the position, Rev Paisley responded: "I'm glad to see Arlene Foster get it as it brings a different perspective to unionism that it hasn't had before.

"That's always good."

Earlier this year, Rev Paisley had said that the DUP might not survive unless there was a change in the leadership.

Asked what direction he felt the DUP would take under Arlene Foster, he said: "That's for the party to decide.

"I don't think Arlene Foster will compromise her unionism, I think it will remain a traditional unionist party under her."

Asked if the party may become more liberal, he said "it may well do".

He continued: "It may have to respond to the changes in society, but there are some things I wouldn't change just because society changes.

"And there are some things that should never change just to keep everybody happy.

"There are issues that you have to standby, regardless if you have to swim against the stream on them."

On yesterday's ruling on Northern Ireland abortion laws being "incompatible" with human rights, Rev Paisley said: "I can understand why you would want abortion as a result of people who fell pregnant as because of abuse or sex crime.

"I just would be anxious about [fatal fetal abnormality] because how do you define that?

"I heard one definition yesterday that was closer to dwarfism and that is not a fatal fetal abnormality.

"Preferably I would rather see life spared even in those extreme cases. 

"But I don’t believe in free abortion as I think that would open the floodgates for all kinds of stuff."

Asked if he would vote DUP if he lived in Northern Ireland, Rev Paisley laughed, saying he didn't know who he would vote for.

Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA Foster is the only nominee for the leadership.

Her appointment is likely to be rubber-stamped by the party's electoral college, which is mainly composed of full-time elected representatives.

At close of nominations last week, outgoing leader Peter Robinson tweeted that she was the only nomination.

He added: "Arlene's nomination was submitted with the support of over 75% of those entitled to vote in the electoral college."

It is a personal triumph for the Enniskillen solicitor and mother of three.

She is in many ways the complete opposite of previous DUP leaders. She is a woman, Church of Ireland member and from Fermanagh. Most significantly of all, perhaps, she is a former member of the UUP.

She first became an MLA for them in November 2003 and defected to the DUP just a few weeks later.

It signalled a long term decline of the UUP which also lost MP Jeffrey Donaldson, Nora Beare, a party functionary, and many backroom staff.

Party handlers will be hoping that Mrs Foster is the woman to attract more members and broaden the party's base.

Peter Robinson previously discussed the need to broaden the party to match the views of its electorate.

It will now fall to Mrs Foster to try and make this happen.

So far she has been reasonably tight-lipped about her plans but they must include pushing through spending commitments from the recent Fresh Start document before the May election.

Once she is in post on January 11, things may become clearer fairly quickly.

She is not one to hang around and is expected to announce a reshuffle fairly soon.

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