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Brexit night date on RTE for Arlene Foster in 'goodwill' move

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DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster

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Late, Late Show host Ryan Tubridy

Late, Late Show host Ryan Tubridy

DUP leader Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster is to appear as a guest on RTE's Late, Late Show on Brexit night as a bridge-building gesture to the Republic.

The DUP leader has agreed to the highly symbolic interview in an attempt to help heal the wounds between north and south opened up by Brexit.

Relations between her party and Dublin are regarded as being at their lowest ebb in more than two decades.

Mrs Foster told the Belfast Telegraph on Friday night that she aimed to show people in the Republic first-hand that she wanted relations to improve and that she had no interest in seeing any new borders erected.

The First Minister will be live on air on RTE as the UK leaves the EU at 11pm on Friday.

The interview can also be interpreted as a signal to northern nationalists that Mrs Foster is committed to reaching across the political divide and making the new power-sharing Executive at Stormont work.

She told the Belfast Telegraph last night that she was a fan of the RTE programme, which is hosted by Ryan Tubridy. "I'm looking forward to the interview," she said.

"On the night the UK exits the EU, it's important for me to speak to an Irish audience and emphasise that I want a good neighbourly relationship.

"I grew up a few miles from the border and I have no interest in seeing any new borders either north-south or east-west."

She added: "Because we lived near the border, we always received RTE so I can remember as a child watching the programme - I never once have thought that I would be on it."

The DUP leader grew up on a farm near Roslea, but the family were forced to move out after the IRA tried to murder her father John Kelly, an RUC officer.

"They shot him in the head as he was closing in the cattle. He came crawling into the house, blood streaming down his face. We couldn't stay in Roslea.

"I'd to move house and school - it was traumatic," she has previously said.

Mrs Foster is not the first DUP politician to appear on RTE's flagship programme.

The Rev Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen took part in the show in January 2009.

He had stepped down as First Minister and DUP leader the previous year. The couple were interviewed by the Late, Late's then-host Pat Kenny.

Dr Paisley discussed his lengthy career and his life outside politics, including his teetotalism. Baroness Paisley talked about how she met her husband when he was a young preacher.

Brexit has seen massively deteriorating relations between the DUP and Dublin.

The party has clashed frequently with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney, accusing them of "riding roughshod" over unionists.

Four months ago Mrs Foster described remarks by Mr Coveney as "deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent". DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds lambasted the Taoiseach.

"Our message to Leo is simple. He should reflect on his intransigent approach.

"He is destined to go down in history as the Taoiseach who restored a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because his friends in Brussels will insist on it," Mr Dodds said at the time.

Dublin regarded the DUP's Brexit stance as reckless and believed that the party's own actions damaged the Union.

The DUP has dialled down the rhetoric since Boris Johnson's election triumph ended its kingmaker role at Westminster and ensured his Brexit deal would go ahead.

The DUP has been widely criticised for not agreeing to Theresa May's proposals, which would have avoided an Irish Sea border.

Mrs Foster this week said both deals were bad for Northern Ireland and it was like having to choose between "a broken arm or a broken leg".

Signing the withdrawal agreement in Downing Street yesterday, the Prime Minister hailed it as a "fantastic moment" for the UK and he hoped it would "bring to an end far too many years of argument and division".

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