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Obituary: Sam Foster - A dedicated public servant who never forgot his roots

By Alf McCreary

Sam Foster, who died yesterday, was a former Stormont Environment Minister and a leading unionist politician. He was 82.

He was well-known in Fermanagh and was educated at Enniskillen Technical School and, later, at the former Ulster Polytechnic.

Mr Foster was a social worker, who also contributed significantly to the political and social life of the wider Lakeland area.

He was a member of the B Special Constabulary for some 21 years and he later served with the Ulster Defence Regiment during some of the worst of the Troubles, rising to the rank of Major.

Sam Foster was deeply committed to politics and, in 1981, he was elected to Fermanagh District Council and served as a member until 2011. He was chairman of the council from 1995-1997.

He also had an influential role in the wider politics of Northern Ireland and was elected to the Assembly in 1998.

A year later he was appointed Environment Minister by the-then Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, of whom he was a staunch supporter.

However, he resigned as minister some three years later due to failing health and stood down from the Assembly at the 2003 elections.

Sam Foster was a lifelong member of the loyal orders in Fermanagh and he was also a member of the NI Police Authority from 1982-1985 and later of the Policing Board from 1999-2006. He was awarded a CBE in 2002 for his political and public service.

Mr Foster was highly-respected, not only in his own party, but across the political divide

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: "He was able to gain the respect of political friend and foe alike. He never held personal grudges and sought to find agreement, rather than to create strife.

"He rose to high office but never forgot his roots, and he always remained at heart a Fermanagh man."

Former UUP leader Tom Elliott paid tribute to his skills as Environment Minister.

"He was enthusiastic and competent in that role during very challenging times and when confronted by aggressive opposition," he said.

He is survived by his wife Dorothy and by the wider family circle, including niece Arlene Foster, the Enterprise Minister.

Sam Foster death: We didn't always agree, but I admired my uncle greatly, says DUP minister Arlene 

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