Belfast Telegraph

New headmistress Arlene Foster makes her mark on first day of term

By Noel McAdam

It was a relatively easy day one.

Arlene Foster's first day as First Minister did not even start until lunchtime.

And five or six hours later she was headed back down home to Fermanagh - accompanied by her proud-as-punch family.

Her mother Georgie and husband Brian had come to sit in the public gallery to watch Mrs Foster become First Minister.

Directly across from them, watching with keen interest, was the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

It was the first day of the new Assembly term and the new headmistress - not only the first female boss at Stormont but, at 45, the youngest as well - was making her mark.

She has always been one to watch.

Even an old school report noted she has a certain tendency, stating she "assumes responsibility". And MLAs may be relieved to hear it added: "Helpful but not bossy."

On Mondays the Assembly kicks off at noon so her first task yesterday was the regular Monday morning meeting of all 38 DUP MLAs, at which there was some gaiety and expressions of solidarity.

Then there was applause from members of the public, and schoolchildren on a tour, as Mrs Foster, accompanied by other DUP members including Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey, came down the famous Central Hall stairs en route to the chamber.

But there was other business to do before Mrs Foster could once again assume responsibility. First came the lengthy tributes to outgoing First Minister Peter Robinson, following a resignation speech by the ex-DUP leader himself.

And the first tribute came from the woman who as of yesterday replaced him as both.

It was an all-but full turnout - only NI21 leader Basil McCrea missing throughout - in recognition of yet another historic day.

After the formalities the new Stormont number one plunged straight into a series of media appearances.

First she had to come out to the steps of Parliament Buildings where a gaggle of photographers waited.

At first she went, naturally, a little right of centre but the Press pack brought her back onto the middle ground.

Already she seemed so much more focused than many of the journalists. "We can't get enough of you," one veteran photographer shouted.

But everyone knew there are tougher - and much longer - days ahead.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph