Foster says she wants a positive future for Northern Ireland & refuses to live in the past.

Following her election as DUP leader, I sat down with Arlene Foster to talk with her about how she felt about becoming the party leader, how she views her relationships with Sinn Fein and the UUP and how she views herself becoming the first woman to lead the party.

I began by asking Arlene how she felt about becoming the DUP leader so unexpectedly, when until just 10 days ago most of us thought it would be Nigel Dodds.

Foster told me that she feels very energised in taking up the post of leader and she is really looking forward to taking her message out to the people of Northern Ireland as party leader and First Minister.

As she spoke I wondered about how much time she would have to do all of this as we are just 5 months out from an assembly election, I asked her about this and could she demonstrate her vision in such a short period of time?

In terms of the message it will be one of hope for the future, trying to say to young people regardless of their background or indeed class or creed…that you can build a future in Northern Ireland and one that is a positive one, not one that is second best but one that is good for you and good for your family.

I wanted to know how being the victim of violence in the past has shaped the person and politician she is today and I asked about how she has been able to use these experiences.

Foster calmly responded that she does not actually put what happened to her aside, but instead of being overcome by anger about it, those experiences motivate her to build a better Northern Ireland and drives her to ensure that younger generations do not have to go through the same thing.

Following on from this I wanted to know about her relationship with Sinn Fein. I referenced a recent interview that Martin McGuinness gave to the The Journal.ie saying he could get along with Arlene. In the past we have seen the “Chuckle Brothers” and then “a battle a day,” how would she characterise her relationship with Sinn Fein?

The new DUP leader wouldn’t place labels on her relationship with Sinn Fein, but openly says that she has been working with them since 2007 and that while at times it is challenging, she feels that she cannot live in the past and that she has to do what is right for Northern Ireland.

I was intrigued to know about another relationship; the one with her counterpart, Mike Nesbitt and the UUP. I put it to her that the UUP were on the way up and could take seats off the DUP.

Arlene very quickly rebutted and said that the narrative that the UUP is on the rebound “doesn’t bare any relation to reality” and if you look at most of the results from the Westminster election, the UUP actually did badly, pointing out a poor result in Strangford.

Could she beat Mike Nesbitt?

Oh gosh absolutely and I say that not from any degree of arrogance but from the fact of confidence in the vision of the DUP moving forward.

As we wrapped up, I noticed that somebody had given Arlene a book on Angela Merkel and would she model herself on leaders like her or Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland.

For Arlene, she told me that growing up Margaret Thatcher was the big influence as she dominated the UK political scene during the 1980s, but she recognises that even in her own family it isn’t remarked upon that she is a senior politician and she hopes that other younger women can look at her in the role of First Minister and think that they could pursue a successful career in politics.

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  • Nordie Northsider

    There is a plethora of satirical ‘mock’ newspapers on line, but none will top the Newsletter headline about Arlene’s wish to make Northern Ireland ‘great again’.

  • CB Belfast

    DUP press team and local media have spent last 48 hours pushing the fact that Arlene was a victim of the Troubles.

    Difficult to square this with the outcomes of the Fresh Start agreement.

  • chrisjones2

    ….. i WANT A POSITIVE FUTURE ….BUT NO CHANGE ON THE GAYERS

  • Ernekid

    It poses the question at what point was Northern Ireland great?

  • gendjinn

    1922 to 1969. You know, when the croppies knew their place, they were excluded from any role in running the place and didn’t have the temerity to fight back when the RUC beat civilians to death.

    AKA the Unionist “good old days”.

  • murdockp

    who would have thought a in Northern Ireland 2015, a Kelly would become first minister.

    It shows how far we have come, great to see.

  • chrisjones2

    Which ones does your stereotype of choice not match?

  • npbinni

    Good interview, David. Appreciated your good questions.
    A quote that struck me was: ‘harmony comes from different voices’
    Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could stay in tune. We could have a great choir!

  • npbinni

    discordant notes already! fifth column comes to mind.

  • npbinni

    would you prefer that the fact that republicans tried to kill her father, ethnically cleansed her family, and bombed the bus on which she was travelling be hidden? ashamed of something, or what?

  • npbinni

    you left your caps lock on…or do you think we are deaf?

  • Chingford Man

    Before the IRA wrecked the country?

  • Chingford Man

    If someone had shot my father in the head, I don’t think I’d want to work with their associates.

  • Chingford Man

    Congratulations to Arlene, and best wishes.

  • WindsorRocker

    Would that not be an asset when a new unionist leader is faced with making decisions like staying in power with SF? In that way you could argue that the emphasis on her childhood and the challenges in it are all about ensuring Fresh Start gets the time to get off the ground without the person leading it getting hit with charges of Lundy from the start.

  • WindsorRocker

    The DUP is a socially conservative party in essentially a Christian Democratic mould, much like in Germany which hasn’t legislated for SSM either as Merkel’s CDU governing party won’t have it.

  • tmitch57

    Presumably this is a reference to the late imperial period when Edward Carson was listened to by Tory governments during WWI and Ulster produced many of the top British generals of World Wars One and Two. And when Harland and Wolff produced many ocean liners and other great ships. But both the economic and the political decline began with the start of the Cold War and grew more pronounced over time.

  • tmitch57

    As a right-wing conservative Ulster nationalist her natural women role models are Thatcher and Golda Meir of Israel, although Meir may be too far back in time for her to remember. Two of those she cites, Condi Rice and Madeleine Albright, were never really party politicians but rather academics who won positions as Secretaries of State due to their expertise in foreign affairs. Hillary Clinton would be a more appropriate role model in this regard, but it would be bad for NI if Foster proves to be as dishonest as Clinton as proven to be over the decades.

  • murdockp

    if she is conservative, how come the DUP like SF are so anti business and the private sector. am confused.

  • murdockp

    or in alternative parlance Chingford Man, South Africa was such a great nation until it was wrecked by the ANC, all those blacks wanting equality and a share of the wealth, housing and jobs, how dare they, the wrecked the country with their civil disobedience and terrorism.
    Language like this would be deemed highly racist in 2015 yet this is how many catholics still to this day hear unionists speaking this way, the irony of course being that the loudest voices of protest come from sink estates where the people have been treated by dirt for generations by their British overlords.
    Again you couldn’t make it up……

  • Nordie Northsider

    Not discordant – merely comic.

  • Jag

    I’m sure she’ll make a perfectly fine deputy First Minister next May.

  • Chingford Man

    The ANC in government has actually wrecked South Africa, as it happens. I imagine in 20 years it will look like Bob Mugabe’s country. As to the rest of your comment, it is too late in the evening to waste my good sense on you.

    Oíche mhaith.

  • Thomas Girvan

    Well, Catholics were better off in Northern Ireland than they were in the South.
    An irrefutable fact, just check the emmigration stats.

  • Thomas Girvan

    Neither would Arlene.

  • tmitch57

    The DUP is a conservative Christian-Democrat style party like the CSU in Bavaria or the PDC in Italy. Conservative doesn’t just mean being pro free market or pro business.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And, Thomas, they were a lot “better off” in England or the United States than in the Wee Six. At least they had civil rights……..

    Before extolling the superiority of life in the north for Irish Catholics it might be of some help to actually know something about the manner in which the continued links with Britain as a dominion during the 1920/30s affected a developing Irish economy that had to be built almost from the ground up from an agrarian base that had not been encouraged to industrialise under British rule. The fragile early stage industrialisation process in the Free State exacerbated the world wide effects of the Great Depression on the development of a local economy. Also, the crippling effects of the Anglo Irish Trade war on what little had been achieved. The effects of this period of trade conflict served to constrict Irish economic growth for some decades after.

    No, Ireland were hardly all on their own in the “encouragement” of emigration, the slow growth of their economy as a factor in compelling workers to emigrate was one of the very few things in which Ireland could rely entirely on “British help”…………

  • Kevin Breslin

    The ANC is what the people want, they might now want a leadership change. If you want to defend apartheid go ahead, but as well as being morally wrong it became impractical to sustain. Similarly with big house Unionist rule after Bloody Sunday.

  • Chingford Man

    Where have I defended apartheid? Go away and learn to read.

  • John Collins

    Simple facts Tom. Under the Act of Union our population in the entire island dropped from five million to four while that of the island of Britain increased from 15 million to 38 million. During this period the NE of Ireland had an increase in population, so it could be said the population of what is now the ROI dropped by between 30 and 40%. An average of almost 60,000 people annually emigrated from this island, despite NE prosperity, from 1886 to 1900 inclusive. Enough said about the benefits of British rule in the South

  • John Collins

    Well Tom those Catholic refugees that I helped to put up in accommodation in a vacant health facility in North Dublin in 1970 did not have your rosy view of how Catholics were treated in NI

  • John Collins

    As stated above to Tom the economy of this island was wrecked by Britain long before the Northern troubles.

  • John Collins

    ‘Kelly the Boy From Killane’ ,of ’98 fame, was a Protestant and of course a Kelly and so was Mrs Clooney, who was at the centre of the Fethard boycott. BTW Iris Robinson was a Collins.

  • tmitch57

    While actually most of Ulster’s top British generals were raised after partition.

  • Chingford Man

    Oh, get over your small-minded, blinkered MOPEry. No wonder the republican project is stalling.

  • tmitch57

    Everyone has their own personal definition of what makes a country great–some define it in terms of cuisine, others in terms of political system or governance, others in terms of scenery, GDP, etc. My point was that by anyone’s definition–particularly in terms of economics and political influence–Ulster/Northern Ireland has not been great for quite some time.

  • Thomas Girvan

    Obviously as the south of Ireland did not experience the Industrial revolution as the North did the surplus population had to go somewhere, hence the Irish diaspora
    You can’t have an economy based on spuds and turf.

  • tmitch57

    Yes when all 32 counties were part of the UK.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thomas, have you asked yourself what the reason might have been that the south of Ireland did not experience an industrial Revolution? Should you check out a good nineteenth century history of Ireland, it becomes increasingly obvious. Clue: who was governing Ireland at the time………

  • John Collins

    Well Tom around the middle of the 19th Century prominent English Politicians like Bentwick (1846) and Lord Morpeth (1839), among others, made impassioned pleas for investment in Ireland, yet it fell on deaf ears. Make no mistake about it Southern Ireland was lost to GB mainly by GBs own selfishness and neglect. You should also read ‘a Plea for the Industrial Regeneration of Ireland’ (1909) by Dr Robert Ambrose MP. In it, it is shown clearly that even in the mid Nineteenth Century there was more than your treasured notion of spuds and turf to the Southern Ireland of the day. How come anyway that the population has gone up by about 75% since 1922, which is roughly in line with the increase in the population of GB during that period.

  • Liggy85

    I’m from the Protestant community and I’ve always been raised as a Unionist. However, my political viewpoints have changed dramatically over the last few years. I would consider myself to be a Protestant Nationlist these days. I would rather see the whole island reunited and working together for the improvement of all our lives. Better to be united with our own and working to making ourselves a great country rather than being the guinea pigs and hanging on to the tail end of another. I don’t mean any prejudice against our friends on the mainland, of course, but that’s just the way I see it.

  • Liggy85

    As much as I sympathise with what’s happened to her – if she’s letting that dictate her politics then she’s in the wrong job. We can’t have a first minister who calls the shots out of bitterness. People on both sides have lost loved ones, as regretable as it is for everyone, but the country has to move on.

  • John Collins

    Seaan
    You have All the fingers on the pulse, as usual. The Railway network in Belgium was state supported and fully in place by the late 1830s. The same applied in most European countries. Yet Britain left it all in the hands of private investors and it was late in the century before remote towns got a service. Places like Blacksod Bay, which had what was regarded as potentially the best natural sea port in European never thrived, because the miserable British Government could not deliver a railway line to it.

  • Liggy85

    There’s the DUP’s problem right there. The word “Christian.” Religion has no place in politics.

  • John Collins

    You can call it mopery all you like. Just because you do not agree with somebodies viewpoint does mean you should not hear it. I am not a republican in the way you seem to mention or do I support men of violence of any hue. I think you should just address the facts, if you can, or else shut up.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you John, all most important points. I find it almost impossible to understand why most people do not look into simple cause and effect in considering all of this.

  • tmitch57

    Well, when you can convince enough of your former compatriots you will have your chance to change the situation. They obviously have a different definition of who “our own” are.

  • tmitch57

    First, the DUP is not the only Christian Democratic party in NI, the SDLP is also a Christian Democratic party. Second, politics are basically an expression of one’s personal values and economic interests. Those who are religious have as much right to their values as do those who are secular.

  • Liggy85

    Unfortunately you’re right, and we have nearly a century of partition of blame for that. We’ve forgotten our identity as Ulster/Irishmen and we’ve just submitted to the British identity. People need reminded that we have a history and a culture we can be proud of and we’re not just simply a pawn of England.

  • Liggy85

    Exactly, but anyone who’s ever been a Christian (such as myself) will know the ultimate agenda of returning souls to Christ or winning men for God. Christians aren’t in politics because they care, they’re in it because they have people to convert. This is why it’s not right to have religion and politics mixed. A true democratic society will recognise and appreciate diversity in all it’s citizens whether it’s regarding their race, religion or sexuality. Religion mixed with politics is the base for dictatorship.

  • Jollyraj

    Are you saying the dots are there, and do line up? Wouldn’t surprise me.

  • Jollyraj

    What was great about it in that era?

  • Jollyraj

    How?

  • John Collins

    Well there is a pamphlet written in 1907 by Dr Robert Ambrose MP titled ‘A Plea for the Industrial Regeneration of Ireland’ and it is most enlightening as to how several GB admistrations wrecked the Irish economy. This document is available from the National Library, Kildare St, Dublin. It gives a detailed account of exports from about 20 Irish ports in 1852 and then gives an equally detailed account of exports from the same ports in 1907 and it shows about a 60% reduction in the latter years figures in comparison to 1852. Ambrose also says that for every four pounds taken out of Ireland by the British less that one pound was returned to Ireland. He points to GB, as then the richest country in the World, failure to put any substantial investment back into its poorer neighbour. At the close of the document (published in 1909) he predicted either revolution or massive emigration within the next ten years, if steps were not taken to improve the situation. Sadly nothing of any great import took place.
    I would also refer you to the speeches of fine English Politicians, like George Bentinck and Lord Morpeth, who made the point that as England was such a rich country it would be a good idea to put some state investment into Ireland, by things like speeding up state funded railway construction, as was the norm at the time in most European Countries.
    The fact is that the population of the larger island went from 15 million in 1800 to almost 41 million (I have just checked this out) in 1911, an increase of 166%. By contrast the population of this island dropped overall by 15% and from 1841 to 1911 the overall population was halved. Need one say anymore. The population of what is now the ROI was down to well under 3 million by 1911
    Since independence we certainly have had our difficulties but our population has increased to about 4.7 million, which over the last century reflects roughly the same rate of population increase as has taken place in Britain over the same period.
    Admittedly the British Government did sort out the Land Question before they left but overall this was, and I say this more in sorrow that anger, too little too late.
    In conclusion, I could go and on about this at greater length but Jollyraj, as you probably well know, most people take no notice of posts if the contents do not suit their narratives.