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Arlene Foster: Arrogance claims are political 'smears'

DUP leader Arlene Foster is interviewed ahead of the Assembly elections on Thursday. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
David Young

ARLENE Foster has branded claims she is arrogant as political "smears", insisting she would rather the electorate judge her character.

Describing the furore around her handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal as the "most frustrating period" of her political career, she said she had "no doubt" she would be vindicated by a public inquiry.

She also rejected portrayals of her as someone unable to admit mistakes or acknowledge weaknesses.

Asked to list her own weaknesses, the DUP leader said she was "very driven".

"I am very passionate sometimes, because you drive on and you want to make things happen."

She said she had been subjected to "a lot of attacks" since December.

"It's very easy to throw around smears and allegations and talk about other people's characters," she said.

"This election is not about me, despite the fact that people want to make it about me."

In an interview with the Press Association, Mrs Foster stood by DUP election claims on RHI, including a fact sheet that said she had already been "vindicated" and an overspend would be avoided.

But she declined to be drawn on the role of DUP party advisers in the controversy, saying such issues would be dealt with by the inquiry.

In the midst of the RHI furore, Mrs Foster accused some of her critics of being driven by misogyny.

She rejected suggestions that her party's characterisation of Sinn Féin's new northern leader Michelle O'Neill as a "puppet" of Gerry Adams was itself misogynistic.

"Michelle O'Neill said she was hand-picked by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, and Gerry Adams has appeared at all of her events," Mrs Foster said.

"It's out of her own mouth, it's not as if there was an election and she put herself forward, she was picked as Martin McGuinness's successor and therefore Gerry Adams still is very much in control of the party as party president."

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Reg Empey last night said the DUP's record in government was so bad that its only remaining tactic was to try to scare the electorate into voting for it.

Mrs Foster said she made "no apologies" for her campaign.

She claimed that if Sinn Féin was to emerge from Thursday's election as the largest party the British government would come under renewed pressure to hold a referendum on a united Ireland.

"People have talked about scare tactics and talked about fear - the reality (of a Sinn Féin victory) would be much worse for Northern Ireland than just talking about it," she said.

"People should be concerned, they should be worried."

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