Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster says she doesn't hold grudges over 'Poots putsch'

Arlene Foster with ex-chat show host Gerry Kelly at the St Patrick's Centre in Downpatrick

ARLENE Foster has said she doesn't hold a grudge against those who ousted her as DUP leader.

The former first minister said she has not been in contact with her successor Edwin Poots but stressed that she "hasn't fallen out" with the agriculture minister, who himself was forced to resign after just three weeks in the party's top job.

Mrs Foster, who in addition to working as a presenter on GB News revealed that she is also working part-time for a law firm, was speaking on Thursday night at the St Patrick's Centre in Downpatrick, where she was in conversation with ex-chat show host Gerry Kelly.

Asked if she held any grudges regarding the so-called Poots putsch earlier this year, the former Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA said she didn't.

"Because if you have grudges the only person you're damaging is yourself. You're wasting your time having a grudge and having bitterness, and frankly I'm not interested in that," she said.

The former economy minister touched briefly on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) controversy, saying that she didn't deserve "all the criticism" but that she had to accept some for the botched scheme.

She stressed the scheme had cost Stormont an additional £33m – which was after the lavish subsidies were curtailed following public outcry.

"People talk about the cost of £500m and that of course was not the true cost," she said.

"And when I look at some of the other overspends that are happening, I think hmm... did we deserve to have a government collapse over the head of that?"

Mrs Foster rejected the suggestion that RHI contributed to her downfall, instead citing "a different cumulative effect, if you like, of the protocol, Covid, not being out engaging with the wider public and sensing the need for change".

"Some people were playing out things that had happened back in 2008,"she said, in a reference to the transition in the DUP leadership from Ian Paisley to Peter Robinson.

She also said many of her proudest achievements where while she was in charge of the economy portfolio and included securing a number of international events and "bringing natural gas to the west of the province".

Asked about the possibility of a peerage, Mrs Foster said "you know that's not for me, as you know I don't have time for those sorts of things" before adding "let's wait and see".

The former first minister said she gets annoyed when people say religion should be taken out of politics.

Mrs Foster, an Anglican, said having a strong Christian faith should have a positive impact on politics.

“Christianity doesn't call you to be neutral. It calls you to be salt and light about what you believe in," she said.

“It does annoy me when people say you have to take religion out of politics and leave it at the door…like it only happens at the weekend. It is part of who you are.”

Mrs Foster said it was not politically correct to say it but she felt she benefited from being educated at an all-girl school.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news