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Why Arlene Foster got out her wedding dress 20 years after she walked down the aisle

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 12/06/2015

Arlene Foster on her wedding day in 1995
Arlene Foster on her wedding day in 1995
Arlene Foster viewing her dress on display in Magheralin Parish Church

It's a dress that she only wore for one very special day.

Stored away in the attic, an ivory silk gown belonging to one of Northern Ireland's leading politicians has been uncovered and is once again in the spotlight.

The wedding dress that Finance Minister Arlene Foster chose for her big day nearly 20 years ago is still stunning onlookers.

It's one of 25 dresses featured in a unique exhibition at Magheralin Parish Church in Co Armagh called Beyond The Veil.

The dress is exhibited alongside the wedding dresses worn by North Down MP Sylvia Herman and broadcasters Wendy Austin and Gillian Porter.

Arlene recalled what drew her to her special dress, which she wore to marry Brian Foster at Holy Trinity Church, Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, on August 24, 1995 when she was a 25-year-old solicitor known as Arlene Kelly,

"I loved the dress because it was nice but not too fussy and it had long sleeves," she explained.

"It was absolutely what I wanted and I still like it today.

"I had to save up for my dress, which I bought from Isobel Love in Hillsborough. I think it cost around £1,000 at the time, which was a lot of money."

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said that she was delighted to have been asked to contribute her dress to the exhibition, which has been organised by Eileen Cousins.

"The idea behind the exhibition is to consider women in the Bible and the organisers are using dresses from people like myself to illustrate the stories of Esther, Ruth and Naomi from the Old Testament," she said.

Arlene and her husband now have three children - Sarah (15), George (13) and Ben (8) - and they live in Co Fermanagh.

Arlene combines married life and bringing up her three children with a demanding ministerial career, but she readily admits that her husband is a great support.

She said: "Every marriage is individual and what works for you may not necessarily work for someone else. It's all about balance. For me it has been partnership, about love and supporting each other and friendship, and of course our three beautiful children."

Beyond The Veil guided tours are still available at Magheralin Parish Church on New Forge Road, Magheralin, today and tomorrow from 10am-10pm and Sunday 2pm-8pm, when it closes.

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