Northern Ireland

Arlene Foster: I lost friends because I went to Martin McGuinness' funeral

Arlene Foster appeared on RTÉ's Late Late Show. Picture from RTÉ
Arlene Foster appeared on RTÉ's Late Late Show. Picture from RTÉ

ARLENE Foster has said she lost friends over her decision to attend the funeral of Martin McGuinness.

The first minister spoke about the fallout from her attendance at the service as she appeared on RTÉ's Late Late Show.

"I lost friends over going to the funeral but I still believe it was the right thing to do."

Mrs Foster's first appearance on the show has been widely interpreted as a conciliatory gesture to the Republic after years of strained relations over Brexit.

Opinion: Arlene Foster's symbolic appearance on RTE's Late Late ShowOpens in new window ]

In a wide-ranging interview, she spoke about her childhood experiences of violence when the IRA attempted to murder her father and then blew up a school bus she was on.

The only time in the interview when there was any sign of a negative reaction from the studio audience was when she outlined her opposition to same-sex marriage.

She spoke about her relationship with Mr McGuinness, whom she served with at the head of the Stormont Executive before the institutions imploded in January 2017.

Mr McGuiness died two months later from a rare heart condition.

She said it was "very difficult" to deal with the fact Mr McGuinness had given an oration at the funeral of IRA member Seamus McElwaine, the man suspected of involvement in the gun attack on her father.

But she insisted it did not colour their relationship.

"I got on quite well with Martin - you may say that is very strange given his background and given my background, but I think we have to make choices and, to me, reconciliation actually starts with the individual," she said.

"As leaders we have to show that we want to move forward and do things differently for our children and to give them hope, but reconciliation has to start with the person as well, so I had to see beyond what he had done in the past and I am sure he had to look beyond who I was as well, as a strong unionist."