DUP Leader Arlene Foster has been re-appointed First Minister of Northern Ireland after she lost the role when powersharing collapsed back in 2017, with Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill becoming Deputy First Minister.
Despite the titles, the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister hold equal status in the executive.
Speaking on Saturday afternoon, Foster said she was “deeply humbled” to be re-appointed to the position. She said while there was “plenty of blame” to go around for the 3 year powersharing deadlock, it was now time to “look to the future”.
Foster also mentioned a phrase in Irish that was gifted to her by a school: “When I visited Our Lady’s Grammar in Newry, the pupils gave me a lovely picture as a gift, it has hung in my office upstairs ever since, just above my shoulder. In Irish, it states: ‘Together, we are strong’.
Referring to her new partnership with Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, Foster said: “We have many differences. Michelle’s narrative of the past 40 years could not be more different to mine. I’m not sure we will ever agree on much about the past, but we can agree there was too much suffering, and that we cannot allow society to drift backwards and allow division to grow.”
Michelle O’Neill said it was a “definining moment” for Northern Ireland.
“After three years without functioning institutions with the five parties forming the new Executive, it is my hope that we do so united in our determination to deliver a stable power-sharing coalition that works on the basis of openness, transparency and accountability, and in good faith and with no surprises,” she said.
“I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of my dear friend and comrade Martin McGuinness taking up the position of deputy first minister, and as joint head of Government I too pledge to follow the example of Martin by actively promoting reconciliation, and building bridges we can all cross to end sectarianism and bigotry.”