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Arlene's Foster tells of guilt at being working mum and how the pressures of job impact on everyday life with family

On the eve of DUP's annual conference, another new recruit.... and the First Minister opens her heart about how she manages to cope with numerous challenges at Stormont

By Noel McAdam

Published 28/10/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster at Stormont Castle yesterday
First Minister Arlene Foster at Stormont Castle yesterday
First Minister Arlene Foster at Stormont Castle yesterday
First Minister Arlene Foster at Stormont Castle yesterday
First Minister Arlene Foster at Stormont Castle yesterday
First Minister Arlene Foster at Stormont Castle yesterday

Arlene Foster has spoken candidly about how she copes with the demands of being First Minister - and confessed no working mum is without "guilt issues".

On the eve of her first annual conference as party leader and First Minister, Mrs Foster also talked about the impact of her job on her family life as a mother of three children, Sarah, George and Ben.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, she said: "It's a case of trying to be very organised. No working mum doesn't have guilt issues.

"Of course I knew it was a very big commitment - a huge privilege but a huge responsibility, too - and of course there was going to be an impact, not least on family life."

Sundays are sacrosanct. The DUP chief will only very rarely agree to work or attend functions on a Sunday.

Instead her family has a meal together and attends a Church of Ireland morning service.

And she insists on taking personal time for community groups and school visits she enjoys.

"I am a people person. I enjoy meeting and talking to people," she said.

Having been a Stormont Minister since 2007 and having closely observed her predecessor Peter Robinson, Mrs Foster already had a "strong support system" in place, including her husband Brian, late mother-in-law as well as friends and babysitters.

"I do not think I could cope without them," she said.

But she refused to say whether during her almost 10 months in office as First Minister, she has gone for advice to Mr Robinson, who is to be the guest of honour tonight at the traditional party dinner before tomorrow's conference.

"I think that is a matter for myself," Mrs Foster said.

The DUP leader also reflected on her relationship with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and said she believes they can work together for the good of Northern Ireland.

She insisted that "of course" she has a different relationship with Mr McGuinness than either Mr Robinson or Lord Bannside, better known as the Rev Ian Paisley, did.

"I am a different person," she said. But in response to the suggestion that the body language between them leaves the impression their relations are fairly frosty, she replied: "I am not a body language expert."

She said they did not meet on a daily basis but indicated the workings of the current two-party Executive are much smoother than in the past.

"In the last Executive we had an internal opposition. Everything we tried to do we were scuppered. It was very frustrating," she said.

Along with Prime Minister Theresa May, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, newly-elected Alliance leader Naomi Long - and perhaps in two weeks US President Hillary Clinton - she is part of a new wave of women in governance.

But she said that in politics "there are much more important things than what gender you are".

Mrs Foster also had no advice for Mrs Long, who she does not know very well, about being a party leader.

"I congratulate her on becoming the first female Alliance Party leader but I think that there the similarities end," she said. "She is not a unionist, as she has again made clear, while I am unionist to my core."

Mrs Foster said she had laughed when she heard Mrs Long describe her as "aggressive" because some would have said Mrs Long could come over the same way.

Having secured the party's 38 seats in the Assembly in the May election - which she described as a "tremendous victory" - Mrs Foster believes she is creating the momentum which will lead to an increasing number of unionists rallying around the DUP flag.

As a politician who herself left the Ulster Unionists, along with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, to join the DUP more than a decade ago, she has nothing but praise for councillors like Aaron Callan and Graham Craig who are now making the same political journey.

Belfast Telegraph

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