Belfast Telegraph

I regret crocodile jibe, it helped Sinn Fein to demonise me: Foster

By Claire Williamson

Arlene Foster has revealed she regrets making her infamous "crocodile" remark about Sinn Fein during the election campaign.

The DUP leader said it handed political rivals an opportunity to "demonise" her.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter a week on from a catastrophic election for unionism, Mrs Foster also refused to state if she will retake the First Minister's position again.

In the interview she expresses regret for the remark which came to define the campaign.

It came during the DUP's election launch last month, when Mrs Foster said she would not be supporting the introduction of an Irish Language Act.

Referring to Sinn Fein demands, she said: "If you feed a crocodile, it will keep coming back for more."

Her jibe became a key part of Sinn Fein's campaign. Within hours, Irish language supporters were protesting outside former DUP MLA Nelson McCausland's office in North Belfast dressed in crocodile costumes.

On election day one supporter came to cast their vote dressed as a crocodile.

Mrs Foster told the Impartial Reporter: "I regret in so far as it allowed Sinn Fein to use it against me and to use it to demonise me.

"Sinn Fein mounted a campaign of demonisation against me and to a certain extent succeeded in that. I just have to prove to people that I am the same Arlene Foster as I have always been."

She continued: "The crocodile comment was in relation to Sinn Fein and not in relation to the Irish Language Act. I have always made it clear that if people want to converse or learn the Irish language then they should be allowed to do so and should be able to do so and indeed we have spent millions of pounds through the Executive.

"We have spent £171m on Irish language including Irish language education, so it's entirely wrong to say we don't support the Irish language."

Mrs Foster would not be drawn on whether her party would be putting her forward for the First Minister's post.

She added: "We are in the middle of the negotiations at the minute in terms of devolution, that's what we want to see. But it takes two to tango and it's whether Sinn Fein want to come back into devolution and make it work."

Asked again if she would take the position, she added: "As I have said, I remain the leader of unionism and that will remain the case. Who we nominate is a matter for me and my team at Stormont.

"We certainly will not be dictated to by Sinn Fein, it is a matter for us to decide. If we allow them to dictate who our nominees should be, then we should have a reciprocal role in relation to their nominees."

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