Northern Ireland news

Warm words for outgoing first minister Arlene Foster across Assembly chamber

Arlene Foster speaks to the media after leaving St Patrick's Church in Coleraine, Co Derry, after a service to mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
Rebecca Black, PA

Tributes have been paid to outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster across the Assembly chamber.

Arlene Foster attended Stormont as Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill took her turn answering questions from MLAs on behalf of the Executive Office.

Ms O’Neill joined the tributes, saying she wanted to wish Mrs Foster “all the very best for the future”, but also delivered a message to whoever will replace her as first minister.

“I also want to say that my determination is to work closely with the incoming minister, they should be in no doubt of my determination to ensure the delivery of the outstanding commitments, particularly where citizens’ rights are yet to be delivered in respect of language and culture, legacy and women’s health care,” she told MLAs.

The DUP leader resigned last week after an internal revolt against her leadership.

The move came in the form of a letter of no confidence signed by a majority of the party’s senior elected representatives.

Mrs Foster will step down as DUP leader on May 28, and as first minister at the end of June.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson are running to become the next leader of the DUP.

In the Assembly today, SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole said he wanted to acknowledge it was the first time MLAs had been in the chamber since Mrs Foster’s resignation.

“While she and I don’t agree on very much, perhaps we agree on a degree of frustration at times with the Democratic Unionist Party, but we’ll leave it at that,” he told MLAs.

“Can I wish her and her family all the best as we move on.”

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said he wanted to wish all the best for the first minister in the future.

“We might have had our differences but we wish you all the best for the future,” he said.

Alliance MLA John Blair said he wanted to wish Mrs Foster all the very best on behalf of his party colleagues.

“I first met the first minister when she was doing her duty in my constituency, South Antrim, when I was a local councillor. I saw her dedication to that duty on that occasion and since, and we thank her for that,” he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Orlaithi Flynn said she wanted to send her very best wishes to Mrs Foster.

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