Belfast Telegraph

'Humbled' Arlene Foster vows to work constructively with Sinn Fein

First Minister Arlene Foster of the DUP and (right) Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein at Stormont
First Minister Arlene Foster of the DUP and (right) Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein at Stormont
Junior minister Gordon Lyons
Junior minister Declan Kearney
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has said she is "deeply humbled" to have been reappointed First Minister and has pledged to work constructively with Sinn Fein in the new Executive.

The DUP leader was speaking in the Assembly on Saturday as she took up office again after three years of political deadlock.

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill said it was a "defining moment" for Northern Ireland.

She said she was honoured to follow in the footsteps of the late Martin McGuinness and become Deputy First Minister.

"After three years without functioning institutions with the five parties forming the new Executive, it is my hope that we do so united in our determination to deliver a stable power-sharing coalition that works on the basis of openness, transparency and accountability, and in good faith and with no surprises," she said.

Mrs Foster said there was plenty of blame to go around for the political paralysis since the collapse of devolution, but she insisted it was now time to look to the future.

She singled out an Irish language phrase. "When I visited Our Lady's Grammar in Newry, the pupils gave me a lovely picture as a gift," she said.

"It has hung in my office upstairs ever since, just above my shoulder. In Irish, it states: 'Together, we are strong'.

"We have many differences. Michelle's narrative of the past 40 years could not be more different to mine.

"I'm not sure we will ever agree on much about the past, but we can agree there was too much suffering, and that we cannot allow society to drift backwards and allow division to grow."

The First Minister added: "Northern Ireland is succeeding in many ways. It's time for Stormont to move forward and show that 'together we are stronger' for the benefit of everyone."

Former US President Bill Clinton said he was glad to see power-sharing restored at Stormont.

He tweeted: "I care deeply about the people of Northern Ireland, and I'm thankful their leaders are coming together in the spirit of the Good Friday Accords to stand-up the Executive and restore the government functions that people of all communities require.

"I remain hopeful that Brexit will respect the Good Friday Accords and the sacrifice and vision of so many people, more than two decades ago."

The Taoiseach congratulated local politicians for backing the deal. "I look forward to working with representatives in Northern Ireland as they begin working together again on behalf of all people in Northern Ireland," Leo Varadkar said. Northern Ireland's five largest parties are all represented in the new Executive.

For the DUP, Diane Dodds is Economy minister, Peter Weir is Education Minister and Edwin Poots is Agriculture Minister.

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy is the new Finance Minister, while party colleague Deirdre Hargey is Minister for Communities.

The SDLP's Nichola Mallon is Infrastructure Minister. Former Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann is the new Health Minister.

Alliance leader Naomi Long is Justice Minister.

The DUP's Gordon Lyons and Sinn Fein's Declan Kearney are junior ministers in The Executive Office.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey is the new Speaker. The DUP's Christopher Stalford, the UUP's Roy Beggs and the SDLP's Patsy McGlone are Deputy Speakers.

The New Decade, New Approach deal that restored power-sharing was published on Thursday by the governments.

The DUP immediately supported the blueprint, and Sinn Fein backed it the n ext day.

The current US administration welcomed the deal, with UK ambassador Robert Wood Johnson insisting the US would remain a "friend and partner" of the people of Northern Ireland.

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