Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster admits she considered quitting and voices regret over past remarks

Arlene Foster said she has made mistakes during her time as DUP leader. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

ARLENE Foster has said she could have walked away from politics in March 2017 when unionism lost its Stormont majority in the wake of her infamous "crocodile" comments.

She also acknowledged that she has made mistakes during her time as DUP leader and voiced regret over some of her past remarks.

"I could have walked away and not stood for the assembly again in March 2017 but, as I say, I'm not a quitter, I want to see things delivered here in Northern Ireland," she told the BBC.

"Have mistakes been made? Yes, mistakes have been made."

During a pre-election interview, the former first minister said that standing aside at the height of public outcry over the Renewable Heat Incentive, would not have made a difference because she claimed Sinn Féin was set on bringing down the institutions regardless.

She said her predecessor Peter Robinson had warned her there would be "dark moments".

"There have been dark moments and I am not going to lie to you but it's also very true that there are very rewarding moments such as the time that we brought £1.5 billion of extra resources (through the confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives) into Northern Ireland and we were able to bring money in that otherwise wouldn't have come," she said.

Mrs Foster said the 2017 Westminster election, when the DUP took a record 10 seats, was a "great high as well".

The DUP leader suggested mistakes in her use of language were down to human frailty, insisting she had always been motivated by doing what was best for Northern Ireland.

The most frequently referenced came ahead of the March 2017 assembly election when, explaining her opposition to Sinn Féin calls for an Irish language act, she said: "If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back and looking for more".

"I think things have been said that shouldn't have been said," she told the Talkback programme.

"I would paraphrase the Queen - 'would have been better said differently, or not at all'."

When asked by whether she referring to the crocodile comment, Ms Foster replied: "You may say that, I couldn't possibly comment.

"When you look back and you say there have been mistakes made, and undoubtedly there have been mistakes made, but we are all human and I think the important thing is that my motivation has always been to do the right thing, at the right time and for the right reasons and when I ask people to back the DUP that is the focus of what I am trying to do."

Ms Foster said it was important that everyone in politics in the north to reflected on their use of language.

"We could all do with looking at our language and looking at - if we want to build a shared society here in Northern Ireland, as I do - then we have to look at the language and recognise that that is the case," she said.

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