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Arlene Foster has her work cut out

By Will Chambre

Published 22/01/2016

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

She's the first woman to become First Minister and the youngest First Minister.

Yet Arlene Foster's term began in the Assembly chamber with controversial comments by a party colleague.

Edwin Poots' remarks about Mrs Foster being a wife and mother ahead of being top dog in the Executive and Assembly came just minutes after she took up the reins of power.

The DUP leader and First Minister has broad shoulders, so when others were crying "sexist", she just got down to business. According to senior DUP MP Sammy Wilson, the "Assembly does not have a great image" and her top task will be to show that it does good. Have we heard the understatement of the year in the first month of 2016?

While the Assembly has been powering through a charge to pass legislation before it rises for the May election, the collective memory of the Northern Ireland public is of bickering and political point-scoring.

Mrs Foster enlisted North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey to help with the task at hand, choosing the former Social Development Minister to replace her as head of the Department of Finance and Personnel.

The Fresh Start agreement is now anything but fresh as the sums are being boiled down and Mr Storey will be using his calculator to see how the region's finances are sitting.

Amid a reduction in Stormont's departmental spending budget, public sector cuts are being implemented with ruthlessness.

According to the BBC, the First Minister has pledged to "sell Northern Ireland" when she visits Washington DC on St Patrick's Day. Of course, she really wants to use the visit to talk up our economy and the prospect of lower corporation tax.

Or, if they don't want to buy, she can always hope that she secures DUP success in the May election so she can go back in 2017 with a new pitch to the next President.

Of course, she's not the only one with an agenda; Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is offering a "two-for-one" deal if the US buys all of the island of Ireland...

  • Will Chambre is a public affairs consultant

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