Foster: “Today is a new chapter in Northern Ireland’s story but when the history of this time comes to be written let it be said of all of us that we fought the good fight, we finished the race and we have kept the faith”

Arlene Foster spoke for the first time in the chamber as First Minister;

Mr Speaker, it was with great humility, an enormous sense of responsibility and the imagination of endless potential for Northern Ireland that I affirmed the pledge of office and take up this post today.

I can think of no greater honour than to have the opportunity to serve my country and the people of Northern Ireland as their First Minister.

I am truly humbled by the trust and confidence which has been placed in me and grateful for all those who have kept me in their prayers in recent days.

As a young girl growing up in rural Fermanagh, the most westerly constituency in the whole of the United Kingdom, in the days when we were plagued by terrorism and decisions affecting our fates and our futures were taken far away, I could not have dreamt that I would be in this position today.

Is it any wonder that in politics I believe that nothing is impossible.

But the real measure of success is not in obtaining the office but in how it enables me to help others realise their dreams, ambitions and aspirations.

For my part I want to make sure what is possible for me is possible for any young boy or girl growing up in Northern Ireland.

For so many reasons, this is an historic moment.

I take great pride in the fact that since Northern Ireland was created almost a century ago I am the first woman to hold such a post.

It was with even greater trepidation still that I learned I am also the youngest person to have assumed this post.

I hope that I can bring the perspectives that both these attributes have to the office.

Indeed, at this turning point in our country’s history, as we seek to address the challenges of the future, I believe the moment is right for the next generation to assume leadership.

The challenges that this generation face are very different to those that our forefathers did a century ago, but our fundamental values remain the same.

The challenges in just five years time will be different again.

Though I may be the youngest holder of this post I am not new to Ministerial office.

Mr Speaker, you will be aware that this is not the first time that I have taken this Pledge of Office but over the past eight years have done so as the Environment Minister, the Economy Minister and most recently as the Finance Minister.

I have learned much in all these roles that I will bring to my new office.

I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that both Dr Paisley and Peter Robinson gave me to serve the community in Ministerial office and the rich legacy that I am inheriting in this office.

That experience has prepared me for the challenges that will undoubtedly lie ahead.

Last autumn we published the Fresh Start Agreement; and today we make a new start with our eyes focussed firmly on the future.

But in looking to the future we will never forget the past.

I am conscious of those who have not lived to see this day.

Of course, I think particularly of my father who would have been so proud of what has been achieved.

I also think of all of those who served the community in the security forces during the dark days of the Troubles and those whose lives were cut all too short.

I make this promise: In all I do I will honour their memory.

We are all shaped by our history and our experience.

Many of us live with the scars, emotional and real that we have endured.

Far too often during my earlier years I saw the devastating effect that terrorism and violence had on our community.

We cannot allow the past to forever blight our future.

That’s why I want to make sure that we never ever go back to the bad old days.

I believe that the duty on me to make Northern Ireland work is all the greater for the sacrifice that they have made.

The reward and legacy of those who gave their lives defending the Country is a stable and secure Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

I also pay tribute to those who have served our community so well in positions of leadership over the last decades.

It is because of what they have done that we have the hope for the future that we do.

They have laid the foundations for the new Northern Ireland that we are seeking to build.

But at this moment in our country’s history it is time for a new generation to step forward.

To build on all that has been achieved and to move our country forward.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

That is our responsibility now… to create a better future than the past and one where we can live together in a society free of strife and conflict.

The challenges of our time are great, but they are different than in the past.

The challenges of our time are great, but the opportunities for the next generation are greater still.

The challenges of our time are great, but there are none that we cannot overcome.

With Northern Ireland’s position in the United Kingdom secure, with devolution safeguarded, and with the economy growing again, we can have hope for the future.

Over the years people from this small corner of the world have done remarkable things.

We can do that again.

In my role as the economy Minister for seven years I travelled the world seeking to bring jobs and investment home.

In that time I am proud that we created more jobs from international investment than at any time in our past.

One thing made that easy.  It was the quality of our young people.

When I travel across Northern Ireland I see people with abundant gifts and talents … sometimes held back by nothing but a lack of confidence and a poverty of ambition.

The only thing that they lack is belief.

I want to use this office to restore that belief and to give new hope.

I want to instil a new confidence in our people and a pride in our Province.

I want everyone to love this country with the same passion that I do.

Leadership has many facets and many responsibilities but there is no greater challenge than to motivate and to encourage and to inspire.

I want to bring hope to those who lack it and help to those who need it.

I want us to live in a more harmonious society where we seek accommodation with one another and not conflict.

Those in positions of responsibility in Government cannot do everything but we can act as an example to others.

If only we believe in ourselves all things are possible.

Mr Speaker, I make no apology for being a unionist but my role as First Minister calls on me to serve the whole community.

I see that not just as a legal duty but a moral imperative.

I want the same opportunities for every child in Northern Ireland as for my own.

I want no section or part of the community in Northern Ireland to be isolated, marginalised or left behind whatever their background or way of life. That was Edward Carson’s vision of the Union and it is mine too.

The best way to safeguard our history and culture and traditions is to make sure that we create a society in which everyone can have a say and play a part.

That is why it is no coincidence that support for our constitutional position has never been stronger.

I believe in Northern Ireland and the people of Northern Ireland. I believe we are a special people.

People ask me what I want to do in office and what I want to achieve.

My answer is simple. Like every mother, I am a practical person. Above all else, I want to look to the future and I want to get things done, I want to make Northern Ireland a better place and I want to strengthen our United Kingdom, I want to give our young people the future that has been denied to so many for so long.

I want Northern Ireland to be a beacon to the world of how, by working together with political opponents and old enemies we can create a Northern Ireland we can all be proud of.

I want to do all of that not in spite of my own past but because of it.

I will work with anyone who can share that ambition of hope and will oppose anyone who would deny our people the future that they deserve.

The people we represent deserve no less.

I’m tired of Stormont being a watchword for arguing and bickering. That’s not why our people elected us.  They did so to provide a better future for us all.

I will do all I can to change the political culture of this place but I can’t change that alone. We can only do it by working together.

I know from experience it won’t be easy. Real change never is.

But I ask today that we find a new way of doing business, one that places a greater premium on consensus than on conflict.

Mr Speaker, it is with great honour that today I accept the nomination to become First Minister.

It is truly humbling that the girl who was raised and reared in Fermanagh has been given the opportunity to lead the country and the people she loves so much.

Today is a new chapter in Northern Ireland’s story but when the history of this time comes to be written let it be said of all of us that we fought the good fight, we finished the race and we have kept the faith.

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

  • Robin Keogh

    Lovely… except for the gays, you can all just feck off.

  • Jollyraj

    Tolerance is a two way street.

  • Robin Keogh

    Yes, except if you are the leader of Unionism.

  • chrisjones2

    she did mention taking Pride

  • Jollyraj

    If you are going to hold others to certain standards, you must apply them to yourself also.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well spotted 🙂

  • Robin Keogh

    Get practising so

  • Robin Keogh

    Chris, where is zeno gone ?

  • Nordie Northsider

    Isn’t that ‘fought the good fight’ thing more associated with funeral orations?

  • chrisjones2

    Shes from Fermanagh ….there are no Gays in Fermanagh ….not permitted

  • Granni Trixie

    I was/am prepared to give Arlene a fair wind for I see potential for her to be better leader than we are used to. However this speech is not a good start …all it would have taken was a tweek here and there to be sensitive to the fact that some of us (even if she does not) see that there was collusion and people died or were maimed by the forces of the state as well as by paramilitaries.

    Come to think of it, bits of the speech read like a deliberate wind up.

  • Jollyraj

    That’s my point Robin. You can only see the flaws on the other side.

  • Matters

    Anyone else sickened by the amount of times Foster uses the term “Northern Ireland”? she said it five times in two sentences on the UTV live interview tonight once again a tactic by the elite to force the partitionist six county statelet down our throat and brainwash the people about their indentity and eroding their Irishness.

    One of the main reasons I wouldn’t vote for the SDLP is because of their quick acceptedness of the terminology though I have worryingly heard a few Sinn Fein members on the ground using the same partitionist language

  • Greenflag 2

    Yes it does a bit -Election on the way

    “.I believe in Northern Ireland ”

    Its not Gospel or the Bible its a devolved region..

    “and the people of Northern Ireland.’

    All of them or just some ?

    ” I believe we are a special people.’

    Afraid not -Just like people everywhere else on this island and the neighbouring island and everywhere else too .There are no chosen people and those who believe they are- end up being rather disappointed .

  • Greenflag 2

    Not sickened but if you repeat a truth even a perceived or partial truth often enough it begins to sound more like a lie 😉 and vice versa . . Just politics .As for eroding ‘Irishness ‘ ? Two words versus 5 or 6 million people ‘s national identity ? Naw about as likely as Canute defeating the waves .

  • Matters

    Of course that is the aim of it mate as you said about the big lie, I know there is a lot of people now who still retain their Irish identity and would only refer to themselves as Irish and this place as the North but the what about the future generation? over the last few years being “Northern Irish” through being promoted by the media etc has changed from being what it is a Unionist position to one of the norm and rejecting being labelled as such and retaining Irishness viewed as still a political nationalist sectarian view this will only get worse as time goes on in my opinion.

  • Greenflag 2

    At the going down of the sun /union / whatever etc we will remember . Our fight is always good -theirs is always not good . Simple and effective as always . No doubts just carry on up the Erne etc and pass the salt please. .

  • Greenflag 2

    The future generation will be less unionist and much more Irish according to the demographers . Call it whatever you want -Northern Ireland -the North -Sic Counties-Six Counties or Mostly Ulster -matters not a jot . There are Northern English and Southern English -Highlanders and Lowlanders -North Wales and South Wales – At the end of the day it may seem to matter but when push comes to shove it won’t .

  • Granni Trixie

    I find overuse of NI much less annoying than constantly ‘harping’ (geddit?) on abou “the North”.

  • Jollyraj

    Or indeed the constant dirge-like repitition of ‘the statelet’, ‘the six counties’ etc etc etc

  • Granni Trixie

    I have never thought of myself as anything other than “Northern Irish” though I do fill in forms as “British Irish” …and significantly I was born before the Troubles. And my dad was in the ‘old’ IRA!
    As I don’t ‘feel’ unionist or nationalist I suppose northern Irish as a hybrid label suits.

    I don’t thnk you can place the blame solely on the promotion of ‘northern Irish’ as an identity in public discourse/the media. People are not such pushovers and quite capable of resistance. I don’t “feel” unionist or national

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Is that true of all us gays? We all recognise that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all you lovely breeders. Thank you and continue procreating.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Yet she did say that she believes that nothing is impossible. Does that indicate a flexible attitude on a UI?
    But then again there’s, “The reward and legacy of those who gave their lives defending the
    Country is a stable and secure Northern Ireland within the United
    Kingdom”. Kinda giving her own voice to the dead don’tcha think. So we’ve now got Mme Arcati for First Minister.
    Shamanistic language invoking blood sacrifice to secure either tribe’s future is never helpful in the wee six and is always creepy in a very atavistic way. In case anyone thought we might be moving on.

  • chrisjones2

    “Does that indicate a flexible attitude on a UI?”

    Sorry to disappoint but Naw. You will just have to wait at least 70 years

  • chrisjones2

    …yes …for Nationalist hopes for any change


  • Gingray

    Thankfully he was pulled one too many times for trolling and quit

  • Jollyraj

    Oh, I’m sorry – does it make me homophobic if I disagree with Robin on any issue?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Is your crystal ball reliable and who are you disappointing?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Don’t be silly now!

  • Jollyraj

    That’s the only thing I’m getting from your comment, Ben

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Trying not to say Northern Ireland, is one of the main parts of being a republican. It is also hilarious to watch for the normal part of the population.

  • Roy Reilly-Robertson

    I always feel quite bemused when I listen to Unionist and Loyalist people go over the top about nailing down their allegiances by over stressing the ‘national’ basis how they wish to present themselves. In my past years I attested hundreds of people who joined the British Army from all four parts of theses Islands, or five if you wish to pretend RoI is entirely separate. In all cases Nationally on the form that all signed and and swore on was entered as Brit/Scot or Brit/Wal or Brit/Eng or Brit/Ire and the Brit/Ire applied to all whether they came from NI or RoI.
    Both Jeffrey Donaldson and Doug Beattie, as ex-soldiers, would have had their Attestation Papers identifying them as Brit/Ire, though Doug Beattie would be easier with that than Jeffrey, I suspect.
    Over the years my own feelings have relaxed to the extent that I have two passports, British and Irish and I enter my Nationality or Origin as Irish nowadays more often than not.
    I work actively with ex-Service people and organisations in Scotland and have no conflicted feelings about my nationality. In Scotland most people recognise themselves as Scottish first and being British seems a sort of ‘bolt on’.

  • Granni Trixie

    Have just listening to Poots on radio. So from day one of new DUP leader no change there then.

    What a team player. keep digging, Edwin.

  • Reader

    Greenflag 2: The future generation will be less unionist and much more Irish according to the demographers
    And what do your double-jobbing demographers predict for the balance between socialists and capitalists?

  • Robin Keogh

    North eastern occupied territory is better 😉

  • Robin Keogh

    There was a paper published by a senior UCD lecturer a few years back (jennifer todd) who along with a few other heads did a study in the North/six counties/ this part of ireland/ ulster/ the province, north east ireland/ west britain/ Norn Iron/ NI/ northern Ireland…… where people who self identified as Northern Irish were asked what it meant to them. if i remember correctly, Those of a nationalist catholic background saw it as an extension of a broader Irish Identity while those of a unionist protestant background saw it as seperate and distinct from both british and irish. Others saw it as a convenient tag to self identify away from the fixed conflictual tribal identities. I will try dig it out and provide a link later.

  • Granni Trixie

    Thanks Robin.

  • Greenflag 2

    Double jobbing demographers ? Sorry Reader who would they be ?

    My prediction is the imbalance will continue and worsen until the financial sector led capitalists will have to be saved /rescued from their inordinate greed for the sake of society by those who have learnt something from the French , American and Russian revolutions . As for the socialists they need to develop an alternative to an economic system which makes the rich richer and the middle and working classes and the poor – marginalised as the wealth of the world shifts east . Simultaneously as keeping a lid on the malcontents of right or left who would lead us all into another totalitarian age and world war.

    No easy or simple solutions given the human condition . True of UK , USA and NI and the Republic but realistically it is probably the USA that the world will depend on to restore some sort of equity in the economy . But they’re not there yet although its said that the American Republican Presidential candidates actually used the word ‘Poverty’ in a debate .

    Marie Antoinette used the word ‘cake ‘ but it was too late and the peasants wanted bread anyway !

  • chrisjones2

    Like Prods and Derry / Londonderry – in my experience we only use Londonderry when there is a Nationalist / Catholic in earshot AND we want to annoy them (Unless we are Gregory Campbell or we want to annoy Gregory Campbell)

  • chrisjones2

    I would like to see that …may be useful on Slugger 🙂

  • chrisjones2

    As in all the rest it just exposes their weaknesses …like Paramilitary Displays of Strength on all sides.

    Baboons displaying their pink backsides

  • chrisjones2

    Oh dear. I had better watch out. But i try to troll more professionally and entertainingly. I assume that is why Mick lets me stay

  • chrisjones2

    What a total utter twat …completely divorced from the 21st Century. And he was a Minister just 12 months ago. Even if he MEANT it benignly and as a compliment, dear Lord, I despair

    Am i mistaken or was she smiling as he said it?

  • Granni Trixie

    I didn’t see that. On one hand she could be smiling as he kept shooting himself n the foot and reveal barely disguised
    resentment. On the other, she definitely ought not to be smiling as at one fell swoop ON DAY ONE Poots undermined attempts she was making to portray a United DUP fully behind her as she promises somethng different from the FM. As happens, Poots sexist remarks are not about what they appear to be about.

    Don’t expect him to be reshuffled to greater heights.

  • Gingray

    I wouldn’t call you a troll – you at least add something to most conversations. Zeno on the other hand …

  • Granni Trixie

    We could link up this post with Micks on David Bowie where we dwell on matters such as ‘people performing versions of themselves’. Trust Bowie isn’t reincarnated as a version of Poots? Or Poots being a version of Jim Wells?

  • chrisjones2

    I sold my soul to Satan to confirm it

  • chrisjones2

    Oh God …I am appreciated ..I have failed

  • Reader

    Greenflag 2: Double jobbing demographers ? Sorry Reader who would they be ?
    These would be demographers who double job as political pundits.
    “Demographic: of or relating to demography, the science of vital and social statistics.”

  • Granni Trixie

    Terrific image.

  • Robin Keogh
  • Robin Keogh

    If it doesnt open just google the title

    Fluid or frozen? Choice and change in ethno-national
    identification in contemporary Northern Ireland

  • Greenflag 2

    Brilliant – but which came first the demographer or the pundit – and does it matter as long as the chicken keeps laying eggs and doesn’t try to cross the road at rush hour 😉

  • Granni Trixie

    I admre Jennifer Todds work. In “Dynamics of the Conflict” book she is one of the few to draw attention to the significance of The New ULster Movement (NUM is a group I research myself for interest).

  • Dominic Hendron

    It’s the whole carrying the torch and passing it on regardless of anyone else’s sensibilities that gets me. She reminds me of Margaret Thatcher, though she quoted St Francis rather than St Paul. Early days though.