Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster on why she regrets calling Sinn Fein 'crocodiles' - while remaining tight-lipped on retaking First Minister position

By Claire Williamson

Arlene Foster has revealed she regrets making her "crocodile" remark about Sinn Fein during the Assembly election campaign - while refusing to state if she will retake the First Minister's position again.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter's Rodney Edwards the DUP leader, who was re-elected as an MLA in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, would not be drawn on if her party would be putting her forward for the post she held until January.

She said: “We are in the middle of the negotiations at the minute in terms of devolution, that’s what we want to see. But it takes two to tango and it’s whether Sinn Fein want to come back into devolution and make it work.”

Asked again if she would take the position, she added: "As I have said, I remain the leader of unionism and that will remain the case. Who we nominate is a matter for me and my team at Stormont.

“We certainly will not be dictated to by Sinn Fein, it is a matter for us to decide.

“If we allow them to dictate who our nominees should be then we should have a reciprocal role in relation to their nominees."

Mrs Foster also revealed she regretted calling Sinn Fein "crocodiles" when addressing their wish to have an Irish Language Act - as it allowed her to be "demonised".

She infamously said: "If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back and looking for more."

This was adapted by Sinn Fein and became a key part of their campaign rhetoric.

At the time Mrs Foster said if there was to be an Irish language act, there should be a Polish language act because more people in Northern Ireland speak Polish than Irish.

Within hours of the comments being made Irish Language supporters were protesting outside former DUP MLA Nelson McCausland's office in Belfast dressed in crocodile costumes.

On election day one supporter was pictured dressed as a crocodile casting their vote.

Mrs Foster said: “I regret in so far as it allowed Sinn Fein to use it against me and to use it to demonise me.

"Sinn Fein mounted a campaign of demonisation against me and to a certain extent succeeded in that. I just have to prove to people that I am the same Arlene Foster as I have always been.”

She continued: “The crocodile comment was in relation to Sinn Fein and not in relation to the Irish language act. I have always made it clear that if people want to converse or learn the Irish language then they should be allowed to do so and should be able to do so and indeed we have spent millions of pounds through the Executive.

"We spent £171million on Irish language including Irish language education so it’s entirely wrong to say we don’t support the Irish language.”

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