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Martin McGuinness is expecting business as usual when Arlene Foster takes top position

By Noel McAdam

Published 19/12/2015

Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster
Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster

Martin McGuinness says he hopes it will be business as usual when new DUP leader Arlene Foster takes over as First Minister in January.

The Deputy First Minister has also pledged to work with Mrs Foster "positively".

Passing on his good wishes after she succeeded Peter Robinson as party leader, Mr McGuinness congratulated Mrs Foster on her appointment and wished Peter Robinson well in retirement.

"Arlene has been part of the Executive for eight years, so I have already been working closely with her over that time," he said.

"In that respect, I'm not expecting any major shifts in DUP policy, but it is certainly my intention to work positively with her for the benefit of all our people, as I do with all party leaders."

Within a few minutes of Mrs Foster being confirmed as new DUP leader, the Deputy First Minister also tweeted his congratulations.

His welcome came after she told the Belfast Telegraph she had no personal relationship with any Sinn Fein members.

"I have no personal relationship with anyone in Sinn Fein, but I have a working relationship," Mrs Foster said.

"If there is an issue, I will contact them and have a conversation about that particular issue.

"If you want to make things work, you have to do that. It would be a ludicrous situation to be in government and not speak to people."

But the Finance Minister, who also spent almost seven years as Enterprise and Trade Minister, also underlined her steadfast commitment to power-sharing with republicans.

"Power-sharing is necessary for the good of Northern Ireland because people voted for them [Sinn Fein] and put them in that position," she said.

"I have to respect their mandate and do respect their mandate, as I hope they will accept the mandate of the DUP as the largest party.

"We have now defended democracy and we need to move forward.

"Do I forget about what happened in the past? No I don't. It is a challenge sometimes when I listen to some of the views of some of the Sinn Fein MLAs, but we will keep challenging their views and putting the contrary."

Mrs Foster said voters were frustrated at the constant squabbling of politicians over issues which appeared to have little bearing on ordinary people's lives.

"People are fed up with bickering," she added. "We will have disagreements over issues but the way to do is talk them through."

A brief statement issued by the Ulster Unionists also wished Mrs Foster - who is a former UUP member - well.

"The Ulster Unionist Party congratulates Arlene Foster on her election as leader of the DUP," it read.

But it then went on: "Her elevation completes a very successful year for Unionism in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, which saw Tom Elliott reclaiming the Westminster seat previously lost to Sinn Fein."

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