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Arlene Foster tells Late Late Show she wants to be 'good neighbours' with Republic after Brexit


Ryan Tubridy and Arlene Foster on The Late Late Show in Dublin last night

Ryan Tubridy and Arlene Foster on The Late Late Show in Dublin last night

Ryan Tubridy and Arlene Foster on The Late Late Show in Dublin last night

As the United Kingdom officially left the European Union last night, Northern Ireland's First Minister was still in it, choosing to mark the occasion in a TV studio in Dublin.

All eyes were on DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose party fought so vociferously in favour of Brexit, as she appeared as the star guest on RTE's flagship Late Late Show as the minutes ticked away towards the historic departure.

Mrs Foster had said before hand that she agreed to it because "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."

It was a brave move with so many political factors blowing in the wind - the rekindling of a relationship with Sinn Fein to return to powersharing at Stormont barely weeks old and an election in the south a matter of days away.

But she was greeted with a respectful applause and a few cheers and smiled politely as she embraced host Ryan Tubridy who asked her what she made of people expressing surprise at her appearing on the show.

She said: "First of all we are leaving the European Union tonight, the United Kingdom leaves, but that doesn't mean we're not still neighbours and I wanted to send a message that we are and will continue to be neighbours and I felt the most easy way to do that was to come here and to be on your show."

She said she watched the Late Late Show when she was younger and told Ryan she was a Johnny Logan fan, and when Tubridy asked "and to say what to the people of the Republic of Ireland?" she replied: "Well to say to say that whilst we are leaving the institutions of the European Union, we are not leaving Europe and we're certainly not leaving the island of Ireland, that we'll continue to have those neighbourly relationships and of course as today is Brexit night, we have the transition period to go through now and there's much to do during that transition period."

Tubridy then asked if she felt comfortable being in the Republic of Ireland or if it was a peculiar place to be.

She responded: "It's very comfortable and I've been made very welcome and I have to say it's not just of course the Republic of Ireland because there are many people as you know that watch this show in Northern Ireland, and hello to my sister in Nottingham in England who is watching the show as well, people all over the United Kingdom watch this show."

She joked that her sister told her she "nearly fell off the settee" when she found out that she would be on the programme.

Tubridy raised the issue of anxiety over Brexit, including farmers and fishermen, to which she said: "I acknowledged that today, I was asked earlier on today how I felt about today and I said well obviously I was pleased that we were leaving the European Union, however I was concerned also about the fact that we are not leaving on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom, tehre are still issues to be dealt with in relation to Northern Ireland, for example the trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"And I said I also understood very much the anxiety of people who wanted to remain in the European Union institutions and many people who had anxieties.

"I think the first thing is to acknowledge them because I think the Brexit debate has been very polarising, not just in Northern Ireland but right across the United Kingdom so the first thing to do is not to be triumphalist and actually to acknowledge that people don't want this to happen, I do acknowledge that.

"But secondly then to work with colleagues in the newly formed Northern Ireland Executive to make sure that we find a common ground between us all and that we work together to do that."

Mrs Foster also explained how she lived close to the border growing up and told how her father survived an IRA attempt to take his life, as well as she herself escaping death when her school bus was attacked by a Provo bomb.

She had earlier been billed by RTE as the main attraction on the chat show, the Republic's most popular programme, alongside guests including the author Marian Keyes and Eurovision winner Johnny Logan.

Before her appearance, the broadcaster had boasted: "At 11pm on Friday, the bell will toll on the UK's membership of the EU, and Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster - whose DUP party backed Brexit - will be live in studio with Ryan."

At the top of the show he had said: "A lot of history on the show tonight, as the clock strikes 11, the UK will exit the European Union and Brexit will happen - gone, out, divorced, over.

"That moment is without doubt the biggest political moment in a generation, quite a night then for the DUP's Arlene Foster to make her Late Late Show debut, Northern Ireland's First Minister joining us on the couch and you can stay with us and witness that little piece of history as it happens live."

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