Arlene Foster: Highs and lows of DUP leader’s tenure

Cate McCurry, PA
·2-min read

In her resignation statement, Arlene Foster spoke of the highs and lows of her tenure as DUP leader.

Dotted throughout the 903-word statement, Mrs Foster reflected on her time leading the party over the turbulent five-and-a-half years.

One of her standout moments was the party’s success in the 2016 Assembly election, when voters were asked to support “Arlene’s candidates”.

Her supporters turned out in their numbers and despite predictions of losing seats, the DUP held on to 38 MLAs.

Mrs Foster cited this achievement and the party’s best ever Westminster election result in 2017 as among her high points.

She said that while the focus is on her today, she recognised it would pass.

Mrs Foster said her decision to enter politics was never about party or person, but speaking up for the voiceless.

She went on to say that she wanted to build a Northern Ireland which could prosper and be at peace within the United Kingdom.

“I am the first to recognise there have been ups and downs over the last five-and-a-half years,” Mrs Foster added.

General Election 2017 declaration
Arlene Foster said the party’s Westminster result in 2017 was among the high points (Niall Carson/PA)

“The 2016 Assembly election result and our party’s best ever Westminster result in 2017 stand out amongst the high points when the electorate sent a clear message that they wanted to keep Northern Ireland moving forward.

“The confidence and supply agreement was able to bring one billion pounds of extra spending for everyone in Northern Ireland.

“Our priorities were not narrow but based on more investment in mental health and hospitals, bringing broadband to rural communities, improving our roads and ensuring funding to encourage more shared housing and education.

“For our innocent victims, I am proud we battled together and whilst too late for some, we finally secured a truly deserved pension for you.

“For our armed forces, the Veterans’ Commissioner is in place. You have an advocate to stand up for you and ensure your voice is heard at the heart of government.

“Of course as with highs there were lows along the way.”

Renewable Heat Incentive inquiry
Arlene Foster during the Renewable Heat Incentive public inquiry at Stormont Parliament Buildings (Niall Carson/PA)

Mrs Foster also acknowledged the crisis surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), adding that three years without devolution caused “untold harm” to public services.

She described the public inquiry into RHI as a “difficult period”.

The inquiry examined what went wrong with Northern Ireland’s green energy scheme.

Mrs Foster also reference the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol which has been at the centre of unionist frustration since the beginning of the year.

“The Protocol being foisted upon Northern Ireland against the will of unionists has served to destabilise Northern Ireland in more recent times,” Mrs Foster concluded.