Arlene Foster to replace Peter Robinson as North's First Minister

Arlene Foster to replace Peter Robinson as North's First Minister

Arlene Foster will become the first woman to lead the North's powersharing Executive when she is elected first minister today.

The 45-year-old from Co Fermanagh has already replaced Peter Robinson as leader of the region’s largest political party – the Democratic Unionists.

She will succeed the retiring Mr Robinson as Stormont first minister when the Assembly meets for the first plenary session of the year at Parliament Buildings, Belfast.

Mr Robinson, 67, announced his intention to retire from front-line politics last November, days after signing a political deal with Sinn Féin and the British and Irish Governments to stabilise the rocking coalition administration.

The transition of power has been smooth, with Mrs Foster facing no challengers within the DUP.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member, a married mother-of-three who defected to the DUP from the Ulster Unionists in 2004, will assume office alongside long-serving Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mrs Foster has extensive experience serving in the Stormont Executive, having held three ministerial portfolios and twice having filled in as temporary First Minister.

Mr Robinson is set to address the Assembly ahead of the formalities of electing Mrs Foster as his successor.

The new leader’s first electoral test will come in May with the Assembly election.

The challenge for the DUP will be to retain its position as Northern Ireland’s largest party and thus its right to hold the post of First Minister.

If the DUP were to lose enough seats to unionist rivals, there is the chance a strong performance from Sinn Féin could see the republican party top the poll.

While the posts of First Minister and Deputy First Minister are co-equal and hold the same authority, Mrs Foster will nevertheless be determined to avoid the symbolism of swapping job titles with Mr McGuinness.


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