DUP leader has to look forward

Posted By: January 12, 2016

Irish News Editorial (Belfast). Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Arlene Foster continued her remarkable journey yesterday with her formal confirmation as first minister just weeks after she assumed the leadership of the DUP.

All new leaders have something of a honeymoon period but hers may be of short duration given the upcoming Assembly elections in May and we can be sure the parties are already in campaign mode.

The forthcoming poll is the most likely explanation for her blunt dismissal of participating in any Easter Rising centenary commemorations, a move perhaps designed to prevent nervousness among unionist hardliners but which has dismayed nationalists hoping the new first minister will display a more inclusive approach than her predecessor.

In fairness to Mrs Foster, her first speech in her new role was positive in tone and aimed to look forward rather than back, although there was a legitimate reference to her childhood experiences when she witnessed first hand the terrible violence inflicted during the years of conflict.

Her father, a part-time RUC officer, was shot and badly wounded in an IRA murder bid and as a schoolgirl she was a passenger on a school bus on which a bomb had been placed in an attempt to kill its security force driver.

She correctly pointed out we are all shaped by our history and our experience but added: “We cannot allow the past to forever blight our future.’’

Mrs Foster breaks new ground as the first woman to hold this high office and as a mother with young children she will be acutely aware of the importance of building a better future.

Her words pledging that no one in Northern Ireland, whatever their background, will be “isolated, marginalised or left behind’’ will be broadly welcomed as will her determination to move away from Stormont’s “arguing and bickering.’’

These are commendable aspirations and certainly sound good but delivering on them is a different matter.

We can only hope Mrs Foster makes good on her commitments bearing in mind an election is looming.