First Minister Arlene Foster - Changing of the Stormont guard

ARLENE FOSTER became the North’s First Minister yesterday and added another first to her CV — she is already the first woman to lead the DUP. She is also the youngest person to do so. 

Yesterday, she became the first woman to lead the power-sharing executive.

Her elevation marks an important transition in unionist politics. It also marks a significant generational change in Stormont’s power structures.

Her Anglican background, one rooted in Fermanagh, and her earlier membership of the UUP, might once have been barriers in her climb to the top of a party infamous during Ian Paisley’s reign for its bigoted fundamentalist Presbyterianism.

This acceptance of pluralism is a welcome break from the blinkered hatreds of the past.

Ms Foster, 45, said she was tired of Stormont “being a watchword for arguing and bickering” and promised to do all in her power to “change the political culture of this place”.

She said she wanted accommodation rather than conflict.

Ms Foster has been criticised, south of the border at least, for declining to take part in the ceremonies marking the centenary of the 1916 Rising, which she described as “an attack on democracy” and argued that previous commemorations had only aided “violent republicanism”.

Rather than react coldly, maybe we should reflect that the events of 1916 were not universally welcomed — a reality that must be accepted, if the centenary is to rise above the usual tribalism.

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