Interview with Arlene Foster: confirms 12.5% Corp Tax by April 2018 but coy about being First Minister

I interviewed Arlene Foster this afternoon and asked her to clear up the confusion between the DUP and Sinn Fein interpretations of Corporation Tax in the agreement.

No it’s not accurate and I think anybody that reads the Fresh Start agreement will see very clearly that the date and the rate have been set and that’s very deliberate because when business organisations speak to us and indeed when Invest NI talk to us, what they wanted was clarity and certainty in relation to the date and the rate so that they could go out and sell the proposition in relation to Northern Ireland. So, I mean that’s there and as far as we’re concerned that’s what it is and we’ll be selling it from now on.

On dealing with the past she said “it is hugely frustrating” that they could not get agreement on the issue.

On the budget:

“I do feel a sense of satisfaction at last that we have been able to deal with the financial issues, because we have been dealing with those financial issues for such a period of time”

Reflecting on Peter Robinson’s speech:

We all had tears in our eyes and I thought I held it together until he hugged me and then the tears start to come. He has been in politics and his decision to move on and I’m a party officer so I’ve known of his desire to move on for some time now. It’s a huge moment and it’s not just a huge moment for the party, for those of us who are close to him…it’s a huge moment for Northern Ireland.

On the outgoing leader’s legacy:

I think it’s been the stability that he has developed through devolution … he is a strong devolutionist … I think his legacy and what he is leaving behind in terms of the party is a very strong party with a depth of talent.

Arlene was coy when asked about becoming the next First Minister, but she recognises that the job involves a lot of heavy lifting and hard work. She told Slugger that it is up to others to decide whether they think she can do the job and that it is up to the party leader to decide who the First Minister is.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs