Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster 'regrets' comparing Sinn Féin to a crocodile

Arlene Foster after she was elected for Fermanagh and South Tyrone last week. Picture by Mark Marlow, Pacemaker

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she regrets likening Sinn Féin to a crocodile ahead of last week's snap assembly election.

Asked if she regretted making the remark the former first minister said: “I regret in so far as it allowed Sinn Féin to use it against me and to use it to demonise me.”

Speaking at the launch of her party's election campaign in early February, Mrs Foster said the DUP would never agree to an Irish language act, adding: "If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more".

However, in an interview with the Impartial Reporter she said the crocodile remark was "in relation to Sinn Féin and not in relation to the Irish language act".

Mrs Foster said it was "entirely wrong" to say her party did not support Irish, adding that £171 million had been spent on the language including Irish-medium education.

"I have always made it clear that if people want to converse or learn the Irish language then they should be allowed to do so and should be able to do so and indeed we have spent millions of pounds through the Executive," she said.

She described the election campaign as "bruising".

"Sinn Féin mounted a campaign of demonisation against me and to a certain extent succeeded in that," she said.

"I just have to prove to people that I am the same Arlene Foster as I have always been."

She said following her election victory in Fermanagh and South Tyrone she had tried to "sound a note of optimism" in calling for the need for "civility".

"Unfortunately Sinn Féin were not interested in that sort of language," she said.

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