Arlene Foster

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Arlene Foster
MLA Arlene Foster.jpg
First Minister of Northern Ireland
In office
10 September 2015 – 20 October 2015
Deputy Martin McGuinness
Preceded by Peter Robinson
Succeeded by Peter Robinson
In office
11 January 2010 – 3 February 2010
Preceded by Peter Robinson
Succeeded by Peter Robinson
Minister for Finance and Personnel
Assumed office
11 May 2015
First Minister Peter Robinson
Preceded by Simon Hamilton
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment
In office
9 June 2008 – 11 May 2015
First Minister Peter Robinson
Preceded by Nigel Dodds
Succeeded by Jonathan Bell
Minister for the Environment
In office
8 May 2007 – 9 June 2008
First Minister Ian Paisley
Preceded by Dermot Nesbitt
Succeeded by Sammy Wilson
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Assumed office
26 November 2003
Preceded by Joan Carson
Personal details
Born Arlene Isabel Kelly
(1970-07-03) 3 July 1970 (age 45)
Dernawilt, Northern Ireland
Nationality British
Political party DUP (2004–present)
Independent (2003–2004)
UUP (Before 2003)
Spouse(s) Brian Foster
Children Sarah
Residence Colebrooke
Alma mater Queen's University Belfast
Profession Solicitor
Religion Anglican
Website Party profile

Arlene Isabel Foster (née Kelly) (b. 3 July 1970) is a British politician who has been the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Fermanagh and South Tyrone since 2003. She became Minister of the Environment in 2007 before becoming Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in 2008. Foster briefly fulfilled the duties of Peter Robinson as acting First Minister of Northern Ireland from 11 January 2010 to 3 February 2010 while he took leave to deal with the Iris Robinson scandal.[1] She became the Acting First Minister and "Gatekeeper"[2] again on 10 September 2015, after Robinson stepped aside.[3]


Foster was raised in the townland of Dernawilt, between Lisnaskea and Rosslea in County Fermanagh. Her experience with the Troubles began early in her life when a night-time attempt was made to shoot her father, a Royal Ulster Constabulary reservist, at her home.[4]

She was educated at Queen's University, Belfast where she graduated with an LL.B. degree.[5] It was at Queen's University where her political career began after joining the Queen's Unionist Association, part of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).[6] She served as the association's chairwoman from 1992 to 1993.[7] After leaving Queen's University, she remained active in the UUP, chairing its youth wing, the Ulster Young Unionist Council, in 1995.[7] In 1996, she became an Honorary Secretary of the UUP's ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council, a position which she held until her resignation from the UUP on 18 December 2003.[7]

Assembly career[edit]

She was elected as an Ulster Unionist in the 2003 Assembly elections. While a member of the UUP, she was part of a "rightwing cabal within the UUP known as the 'baby barristers'." They actively opposed party leader David Trimble, and were a "thorn in [his] side" after he supported the Belfast Agreement.[8] In 2004, Foster resigned from the UUP and joined the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), together with fellow Assembly members Jeffrey Donaldson and Norah Beare. She was selected as the DUP's candidate for Fermanagh & South Tyrone in the United Kingdom general election, 2005. Negotiations took place between the local branches of the DUP and UUP with the aim of finding an agreed unionist candidate. The negotiations broke down with neither party willing to accept the electoral dominance of the other; the UUP claiming Foster's defection to the DUP disguised the reality of the UUP's electoral strength, whilst the DUP pointed to the change in the unionist political landscape following the 2003 Assembly election and 2004 European Parliament election. The UUP candidate was Tom Elliott. Foster finished second in the 2005 general election with 14,056 votes.

On 11 January 2010, she assumed the duties of the First Minister of Northern Ireland, as Peter Robinson stepped aside for a planned period of up to six weeks. Foster worked along with the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.[9] Robinson returned earlier than planned, on 3 February 2010.[1]

In March 2014 Foster became embroiled in controversy after demanding an apology for what she described as "deeply insulting language" in a comment made by fellow MLA, Anna Lo of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. Lo had described herself as "anti-colonial" and said the partition of Ireland was "artificial".[10] Foster herself was challenged over the fact that she had chosen to speak out so robustly on the matter, after remaining silent about arguably much more controversial comments made the previous day by another unionist politician, Progressive Unionist Party leader, Billy Hutchinson. Hutchinson had said in a newspaper interview that he had "no regrets" over his random sectarian murder of two Catholics on their way to work in 1974. [11] [12]

Minister of the Environment[edit]

In September 2007, a privately financed proposal for a new Giant's Causeway centre was given preliminary approval by the new Northern Ireland Environment Minister and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member Arlene Foster.[13] Immediately afterwards, the public money that had been allocated to the Causeway development was frozen. The proposal resulted in a public row about the relationship between the private developer Seymour Sweeney and the DUP; Sweeney is a member of the DUP, although both parties deny that he has ever given to the party financially.[14] On 29 January 2008, Foster announced that she had now decided against Sweeney's proposal for a new visitors' centre, reversing her earlier position of "being minded" to approve it.[15] Although the public funds for a Causeway scheme remain frozen for the moment, it seems highly likely that the publicly funded plan for the Causeway will now go ahead after all. As the energy minister, Foster attacked the Co-operative Group over the showing of a documentary opposing fracking, saying, "I find this claim hard to reconcile with your demonstrable support for a film which presents a wholly one-sided and partial approach to the debate about hydraulic fracturing."[16]

Personal life[edit]

Foster is married to Brian and has three children.[17]

Foster was a Councillor on Fermanagh District Council representing Enniskillen ward from 2005 until 2010.

In 2008, she was recognised as Assembly member of the year at the Women in Public Life Awards.[18]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Robinson back as Northern Ireland first minister BBC News, 4 February 2010
  2. ^ "Arlene Foster takes reins as sole unionist in faltering powersharing government". belfastlive. Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  3. ^ [1] BBC News, 10 September 2015
  4. ^ Arlene Foster – Profile BBC News, 11 January 2010
  5. ^ Biography – Arlene Foster Northern Ireland Assembly
  6. ^ Arlene Foster's unlikely path to Northern Ireland's top job Daily Telegraph, 12 January 2010
  7. ^ a b c Political Biography – Arlene Foster Democratic Unionist Party
  8. ^ McDonald, Henry (11 January 2010). "Robinson saga: Profile of Arlene Foster". The Guardian (London: The Guardian). Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Peter Robinson steps aside as NI first minister BBC News, 11 January 2010
  10. ^ "Anna Lo: 'United Ireland' remarks 'insulting', say unionists". BBC News. 20 March 2014. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Developer set to get Causeway nod BBC News, 10 September 2007
  14. ^ Developer's DUP link 'no bearing' BBC News, 11 September 2007
  15. ^ Gordon, David (29 January 2008). "Foster ditches Sweeney centre". The Belfast Telegraph. pp. 1–2. 
  16. ^ Magee, Kevin (14 June 2012). "BBC News – Arlene Foster criticises Co-operative Group over fracking film". BBC News (BBC News). Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  17. ^ A privilege to serve says Arlene The Impartial Reporter, 14 January 2010
  18. ^ "Arlene Foster, MLA Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment". DETI. DETI. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 

External links[edit]

Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Joan Carson
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Political offices
Preceded by
Dermot Nesbitt
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Sammy Wilson
Preceded by
Nigel Dodds
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment