Arlene Foster to succeed Peter Robinson as First Minister of North of Ireland

Arlene Foster to succeed Peter Robinson as First Minister of North of Ireland

THE Democratic Unionist Party’s Arlene Foster will become the first female leader of the North of Ireland next month.

The 45-year-old Stormont Finance Minister was formally elected the party’s leader last night, after being the sole nominee to take over from Peter Robinson, who announced his resignation last month.

The DUP’s 90-member executive elected Ms Foster to the role last night.

Ms Foster said it was “an honour” to follow in the footsteps of her predecessors, Peter Robinson and Ian Paisley.

After being elected to the role, Ms Foster reiterated her party’s stance that the North of Ireland is better placed in the union with Britain.

“We will never resile from our belief that Northern Ireland is best served being part of the Union,” she said.

“But unionism is about all of us and not anyone alone. It is about everyone working together as one, for the greater good, to build a Northern Ireland we can all be proud of.”

The DUP is the majority party in the Northern Irish Government – with Sinn Féin the second biggest.

After the political fallout from the murder of Kevin McGuigan in August, the two parties agreed to work together for the benefit of the Northern Irish people.

But things are unlikely to undergo major changes in Stormont, with Ms Foster promising to uphold the DUP’s values.

“The style of leadership may change but the fundamental values of this party will not,” she said.

“I want to take our cause and our case to every part of the Province.

“I want to make the case for the Union to every class and creed.”

Ms Foster has been a DUP politician since 2004 – after stints with the Ulster Unionist Party and as an independent candidate.

She has twice filled in for Peter Robinson as Acting First Minister – in 2010 after the Iris Robinson scandal and in September, when Mr Robinson stood down during the Stormont crisis.

She will formally take over as First Minister next month.