Arlene Foster 'determined to complete the job'
Arlene Foster has expressed determination to "complete the job" she started as first minister and deliver a brighter economic future for Northern Ireland.
The DUP leader said March's snap Assembly poll would shape the future of Northern Ireland, claiming a bolstered Sinn Fein would be harmful to the region.
Addressing a business event in her Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency, Mrs Foster also reflected on the political crisis that precipitated the collapse of the powersharing institutions.
The DUP leader lost her job as first minister when deputy first minister Martin McGuinness quit in protest at her handling of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) green energy scheme.
Mrs Foster has denied wrongdoing in a furore that has left Stormont facing a potential £490 million overspend.
"If someone had said then that less than 10 months later we would be once again going to the polls, I doubt anyone would have fully believed them," she told an audience of business representatives at the Lough Erne Resort, on the outskirts of Enniskillen.
"But as Harold Macmillan famously remarked when asked what the most difficult part of his job was, 'events, dear boy, events'.
"I recognise the frustration of people across Northern Ireland that we are facing another election rather than getting on with the job. I recognise the wider frustration with politics here.
"Politics is too slow, too divided, too often focused only on the past rather than on our future. I share those frustrations. Our politics can and should be better.
"However, I believe in devolution. It is far from perfect and we must do better.
"But I believe it is the best system for Northern Ireland to allow us to work in partnership with those from across our community.
"This is why I am committed to getting the Assembly back, committed to working with the representatives of other parties to get it working and getting it to deliver for you."
Mrs Foster added: "This is an election that will decide the future direction of Northern Ireland.
"This is an election with an important choice facing us all. The choice between keeping Northern Ireland moving forward to a strong, prosperous future, secure in the UK or taking the wrong direction with a strengthened Sinn Fein pushing even harder for a United Ireland.
"That is a choice that will have profound implications for our country, our communities and for you and your family's future.
"We have come a long way in the last 20 years. Yes, progress has been too slow at times; there have been distractions, bumps in the road and moments of intense frustration. I have felt them too."
The DUP leader predicted there would be a "very challenging round of negotiations" post-election to get powersharing back up and running.
"I very much hope that we will be able to overcome those challenges and establish an Executive on a sustainable basis so that we are able to get the best possible results for Northern Ireland," she said.
"When I was elected last May, I said I was humbled and considered it a huge privilege to be Northern Ireland's first minister and to work for everyone.
"I want to be able to complete the job I was given by the people and I am seeking that opportunity.
"Over the next number of weeks, we have much to do but there is no greater privilege than serving the people across our great Province and striving, despite the challenges, to build a stronger Northern Ireland where all our people have the opportunity to succeed."