Former DUP leader Arlene Foster ‘sad’ at way party ousted her

Paul Givan expected to take over as leader of DUP, pending Sinn Féin approval

 Arlene Foster  said she  also excited about what may lay ahead. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Arlene Foster said she also excited about what may lay ahead. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Stormont’s outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster has said she is “sad” at the manner in which she was ousted as she prepares for her final engagements before leaving office.

The former Democratic Unionist Party leader said she was also excited about what may lay ahead although she declined to be drawn on what she would do next.

“I’ve loved representing the people of Northern Ireland, it has been the greatest privilege of my life,” she said after a visit to the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast on Thursday.

“I am of course feeling a mixture of emotions at this point in time – sad that I was taken out of my position in the manner that I was taken out.

“But I have to say [I am] excited by the opportunities. I am 50, as everyone famously knows, so now is a good time to have a change, and I am looking forward to the possibilities that are there.”

Mrs Foster, who will host the British-Irish Council in her native Co Fermanagh on Friday, said she hopes to make a personal statement in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday.

Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan is expected to take over as First Minister, although his appointment must be approved by Sinn Féin, who hold the Deputy First Minister role in the joint power-sharing office.

Sinn Féin was expected to seek guarantees from the DUP on some issues, including the introduction of Irish language legislation, provided for in the New Decade New Approach deal.

The new DUP leader Edwin Poots met with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald on Wednesday.

Mr Poots said he was very happy with the meeting.

“I have publicly committed myself to New Decade New Approach and to the implementation of New Decade New Approach, including the cultural aspects of it,” he said.

“That’s something that I have committed to and I think that is something which should be very encouraging for everyone.”

Former DUP MP and party special advisor Emma Little-Pengelly said she would “step back” from the party once Mrs Foster steps down.

On the fractious split since Mrs Foster was deposed, she said she was “deeply saddened by what has happened over the last number of weeks, in particular the nature and manner.”

“I fundamentally believe in principles of decency, respect, kindness and respect,” she added.

“There is a huge piece of work to be done moving forward, to bring this party back together and to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.”