Arlene Foster: I am ready to work with other parties to get the Executive up and running again
Sunday Life Exclusive
On Thursday the people of Northern Ireland had their say.
It is now the responsibility of those of us who were elected to honour the mandates on which we were elected and do all we can to see a restoration of the Executive and Assembly.
Both at the ballot box and on the doorsteps over the last four weeks we have had the opportunity to hear directly from those we represent.
To the 225,413 people who placed their trust in the DUP, I say thank you. It is humbling that, in difficult circumstances, people voted DUP in numbers not seen since 2005.
I am listening not just to those who voted for the DUP, but to those who cast their votes for other parties. We must all respect each other’s mandates and work together for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.
There is no doubt that Sinn Fein had a good election and the nationalist vote was up considerably across Northern Ireland, but unionism should not despair.
Over 22,000 more people voted DUP than in our record breaking election last May. Unfortunately it was not enough to save some of the seats which we lost. We must learn lessons from this election.
If nationalists are turning out in record numbers, we must ensure that unionists turn out to vote as well. When unionists turn out to vote, we must ensure that they transfer to other unionists to make sure we are properly represented at Stormont.
When we warned that this election would be neck and neck between the DUP and Sinn Fein, some people did not take it seriously. There is no doubt that the next time the real and present danger of a Sinn Fein First Minister and a nationalist majority at Stormont will not be seen as a scare story.
With the reduction of the number of MLAs from 108 to 90 we have lost many colleagues from almost all parties who have served their constituencies with distinction. Politics is a tough business, and it is right to recognise the contribution of those who will not return when the Assembly next meets.
It would be easy to recriminate about how we got to where we are, but our real duty now is to chart a course to a better future.
When the talks begin on Monday I will seek to work with other parties to create the circumstances where we can not just get the Executive up and running again, but do so in a way in which it will endure.
>>Results centre - select a constituency - every result as it happened -
North Antrim - East Antrim - South Antrim - North Belfast - East Belfast - South Belfast - West Belfast - Strangford - South Down - Lagan Valley - Upper Bann - Newry and Armagh - Fermanagh & South Tyrone - West Tyrone - Mid Ulster - East Londonderry - Foyle - North Down