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Arlene Foster deserves our full support

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 11/01/2016

History will record that today Arlene Foster became the Northern Ireland First Minister. She is the first woman, and youngest person ever, to hold this position.

Mrs Foster has had a staggering, and deserved, rise to power, and she has shown already that she has the steely determination to succeed in a most stressful job.

As a veteran of the Stormont Executive, and its longest-serving female minister, she has held three top posts, with the environment, enterprise and finance portfolios.

She is well-equipped for the top job, but difficult challenges lie ahead.

Despite the Fresh Start Agreement, painfully forged at the end of last year, the relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein remain difficult.

Many will be watching to see if this agreement can withstand the economic challenges which virtually scuppered Stormont, and people will hope that the new First Minister will maintain good working relationships, particularly with republicans.

Arlene Foster will also preside over an Assembly that has serious image problems. Many see it as dysfunctional, and badly in need of structural reform. Our troubled past still hangs heavily, and the issue of addressing it for victims was ducked in the recent Agreement. However, this nettle must be grasped.

Mrs Foster also faces huge challenges in her own party. As the May election looms, observers believe that the DUP will struggle to repeat the spectacular success of 2011, in a new environment where Mike Nesbitt seems to have rejuvenated the UUP.

The new First Minister has sent out a strong message that she will not attend any event to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising. This is a tough message to republicans, underlining that she will be no pushover, and that maintaining the Union is at the heart of her politics. Nevertheless she has made the point that the First Minister's role is to represent everyone and hopefully she will have the breadth, as she says, to represent democratic nationalists and unionists.

So far, Arlene Foster has shown that she has the skill, knowledge and temperament to be a political leader, and in our society, inclusiveness is crucial.

We wish her all the best in dealing with the challenges of making Northern Ireland a better place for everyone.

Belfast Telegraph

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