Arlene Foster announced LGBT event attendance 'before confirming with organisers'

DUP Leader Arlene Foster
Brendan Hughes

ARLENE Foster told the media of her plans to attend an LGBT event next week before her attendance was formally confirmed with organisers.

The DUP leader on Monday announced she will attend PinkNews's summer reception to be held next Thursday at Stormont.

Publicly confirming her attendance, Mrs Foster told the press she wanted the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community to know that she does "value their contribution to Northern Ireland".

However, some of those involved in preparations for the event have questioned the manner in which her invite was accepted.

Some told The Irish News they first learned of Mrs Foster's plans to attend when it was reported in the press on Monday – despite invites having been sent out three months ago.

However, it's understood there had been "back and forth" informal discussions before Monday between some of those involved and DUP officials who indicated she was likely to attend.

It is understood senior DUP officials gave event organisers a "final confirmation" of her attendance on Wednesday.

In a leaked speech to the DUP executive, Mrs Foster told senior party members she had been invited by one of Northern Ireland's largest inward investors, presumably meaning the event's sponsor Citi.

However, Mrs Foster was first invited by PinkNews, which sent its invite on March 19. A further invite was sent later by Citi.

The DUP leader's attendance has been welcomed by LGBT rights campaigners.

The leaders of Stormont's other main parties – Michelle O'Neill, Colum Eastwood, Naomi Long and Robin Swann – will also attend next Thursday's reception.

Mrs Foster and other political leaders were invited to speak at the event, but it's unclear if she will take up the opportunity.

Asked about when Mrs Foster had informed organisers of her intention to attend the event, and whether this was confirmed before she told the media, the DUP did not respond.

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