THE SECOND MOST important job she will ever take on…”
That is one Northern Ireland politician’s reaction to Arlene Foster becoming Northern Ireland’s First Minister – a role which will see her try to keep the power-sharing executive in tact after a year of turmoil.
Her most important job, according to MLA Edwin Poots, however has nothing to do with Stormont’s future. Nor is it to ensure the DUP retains its position as the largest party in the North.
It “has been, and will remain, that of wife, mother and daughter”, he said today.
In congratulating the leader of his party, the oft-controversial DUP member said a number of things that have caught people’s attention.
“I should say that it is the second most important job that she will ever take on,” he told parliament.
Her most important job has been, and will remain, that of a wife, mother and daughter. Family will always come first. I know that will be the case with Arlene, and it should be the case.
His speech has started to receive criticism online for its gendered language.
As well as the references of her status as mother, daughter and wife, people have questioned whether Poots would have used the terms ‘feisty, fiery, compassionate and caring’ about a male colleague.
Not only did Foster become the first female First Minister today, she is also – 45 years old – the youngest. They are two points she mentioned in her opening speech as particular areas of pride for her.
On taking her position, she said she held an “enormous sense of responsibility” and could “think of no greater honour than to have the opportunity to serve my country and the people of Northern Ireland”.
“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,” she continued.
“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.
She, herself, later went on to mention being a mother and how it has shaped her way of looking at Northern Ireland. Although, she failed to order which ‘job’ was more important.
“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,” she said.
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.
Meanwhile, in her role as politician and First Minister – not mother, wife or daughter – Foster has irked some politicians south of the border over her remarks about planned 1916 commemorations.
In an article for the Belfast Telegraph, she described the Easter Rising as an ‘attack on democracy’.
Speaking to reporters today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was ‘disappointed’ over her declaration that she would not attend any of the centenary events.
“These have been put together in a very sensitive, comprehensive, inclusive way, both north and south,” he added.