First Minister's First Month Spotlight


First Minister's First Month

Declan Lawn examines new first minister Arlene Foster's rise from a childhood during the Troubles to the top of the country's political establishment.


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SPOTLIGHT NIC B799A/01 BRD000000

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Arlene Foster has risen to the top of politics in Northern Ireland,

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to a job she never expected to have.

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As a young girl growing up in rural Fermanagh,

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the most westerly constituency in the whole of the United Kingdom,

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in the days when we were plagued by terrorism,

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I could not have dreamt that I would be in this position today.

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Is it any wonder that, in politics, I believe nothing is impossible?

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And if politics really is the art of the possible,

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the speech from Martin McGuinness

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shows just how much has changed here.

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I am very conscious that Arlene's mother

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and her husband and children are here today,

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and I also acknowledge the hurt that their family endured

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as a result of the conflict.

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But only a few people know that for the First and Deputy First Ministers, it's personal.

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That's because of a painful connection between them

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stretching back over 30 years.

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Do you think you know the identity

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-of the person who tried to kill your father?

-Yes, I do. Yeah.

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And he is no longer about.

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And Martin McGuinness spoke at his funeral?

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Yeah.

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Tonight on Spotlight, we're with the First Minister

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during her first month in office,

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looking at the experiences that formed her.

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I closed my eyes, I just didn't know what was going on.

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Then there was about two or three seconds silence,

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and then everybody started to scream.

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Were you traumatised by that bomb attack?

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I was, yes.

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And getting to the heart of who she really is.

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When you think about bullying me, think again.

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I think we need to send clear messages out

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that paramilitarism, wherever it comes from

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there's no place for it here in Northern Ireland.

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Sinn Fein have been shown to be economically illiterate, yet again, yet again.

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And I think the BBC need to answer why they feel the need to continue

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with their negativity and their parasitical nature,

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and I think it is very disappointing.

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Do you have a temper?

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-RADIO:

-Right now, the time is half past eight.

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Let's get a summary of the news from Anne-Marie.

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As we've been hearing, David Bowie has died.

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In Toomebridge, one lane of the A6 Hillhead Road

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remains closed towards Castledawson...

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The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, will formally take over as First Minister

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at Stormont later today.

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January 11th. It's Arlene Foster's first day as First Minister.

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For the next few weeks, she is allowing us behind the scenes

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and she's agreed to take part in a number of interviews.

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-First Minister, congratulations.

-Thank you, thank you.

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-Well done. How has it been today?

-Well, it's all been...

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-Is it a bit surreal?

-It is a bit surreal, I have to say.

-It must be.

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It's been lovely. I've just had lunch with my mum and the family.

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-She must be very proud.

-Yes, she is. It's lovely to have her here,

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she's in her 80s now, so it's great that she could come up.

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Fantastic. So this is it, this is the office.

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No, well, this is Finance actually.

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-Right, OK, so you haven't moved yet?

-Haven't moved yet.

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So that all has to be... that all has to be done now.

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Before she even gets comfortable at the First Minister's desk,

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Arlene Foster has to meet the media.

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When the elections do come, what's your ambition for

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the Ulster Unionist Party? Is it about their destruction?

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Effectively, you've made up your minds

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that EU membership is not good for Northern Ireland.

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Your relationship with Martin McGuinness

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is going to be of critical importance in future.

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Just one final question - favourite Bowie track?

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Oh, it has to be Let's Dance.

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It's 9am the next morning, and Arlene Foster is in Lisburn

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on her first official engagement as First Minister.

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I brought the weather with me, unfortunately.

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And one of the things she is going to have to get used to

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is the escalated level of media scrutiny and media interest.

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It's a different level to when she was a Minister.

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And already she has to handle her first minor controversy.

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In the Assembly, the day before, her party colleague, Edwin Poots,

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made a statement that some consider to be sexist.

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But in congratulating Arlene on her elevation to First Minister,

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I would say that is the second most important job

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that she will ever take on.

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Her most important job has been and will remain

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that of a wife, a mother, a daughter.

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Do you feel that there is a kind of

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double expectation on you in this position?

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Well, you know, I think if you look at some of the media questions

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yesterday, you could say the same of those as well.

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They wouldn't be asked of a man either, but you know,

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I'm not really focusing on that. I'm focusing on the job ahead.

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Is it a sexist thing to ask?

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Look, I understand that people are interested in that aspect,

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because I am the first female First Minister.

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How do you balance that?

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The reality is, of course, that I have been a busy solicitor

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before I became a politician, so I have always been working,

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so there's always been a need to balance a work with family.

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Arlene Foster has only been in power for 24 hours.

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But, already, she is learning that as First Minister,

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she'll be expected to have an answer for everything.

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Sam McBride is the political correspondent of the Newsletter.

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On her first day in office, he interviewed her.

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That's a departure in itself.

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Peter Robinson had refused to speak to the Newsletter

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for several months.

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Arlene Foster, certainly in this phase of her leadership,

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has shown herself, I think, very deliberately

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to be much more approachable, much more relaxed,

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much more affable and engaging.

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It will be interesting to see

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whether that is something she can manage to hold on to

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as the pressure begins to come on during an election campaign.

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Do you ever get the sense that she is an unlikely DUP leader?

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I mean, she's from a Church of Ireland background,

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she's from the west of the province, she's a woman.

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It seems that, in all of these ways, she is very different

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to what has gone before. How did she get there, do you think?

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She got there because the DUP changed.

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If she had been in the DUP 20 years ago,

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she obviously would not have had a hope of becoming leader, I think,

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because it was very much more aligned

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to the Free Presbyterian Church.

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One of Arlene Foster's challenges in her new job

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is to make the DUP appeal to a broad range of voters,

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whilst reassuring its evangelical, conservative, religious wing.

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One organisation which espouses that mind-set is the Caleb Foundation,

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an evangelical lobby group.

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Gregory Campbell and Nelson McCausland have expressed sympathy

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with the views of the Caleb Foundation.

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And Mervyn Storey is a member of its council.

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It's committed to promoting the literal truth of the Bible,

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including creationism, which teaches

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that the world was created by God 6,000 years ago, in six days.

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The Foundation successfully lobbied to have that view included

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in the exhibition at the Giant's Causeway.

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Arlene Foster is not a member.

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Are you a creationist?

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You know, I have been asked this question many times and, actually,

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when I joined the party, some people asked me

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was I also joining the church?

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And that was a fundamental misunderstanding.

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We have to see the Bible in the context

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of the scientific developments.

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I take as my leader, the way in which Her Majesty the Queen

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is a Low Anglican is something that is very akin

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to the way in which I worship as well.

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Can you see why some people might become concerned

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when there is an organisation that seeks to promote

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the literal truth of the Bible in legislation?

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I mean, there is just no separation there.

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Well, they are not...

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That is not the DUP, the Caleb Organisation

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um, is an organisation that exists

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to lobby and to promote their beliefs.

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And they are perfectly entitled to do that.

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Her balancing act can be seen on day two with her Cabinet reshuffle.

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The party officers and myself have come to the decision to appoint

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Mervyn Storey as Finance Minister.

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Putting Mervyn Storey into Finance,

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a very important member of the Caleb Foundation,

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but a party loyalist,

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was an ingenious piece of management.

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And the signal that she was sending to her party there was,

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"Don't worry about your new female, Church of Ireland, ex-UUP leader,

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"I'm going to respect this party's traditions."

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In public, she appears to be a deft political operator.

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But I'd heard that, behind the scenes,

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the real Arlene Foster has a short fuse.

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It's said by people who have spent an awful lot more time

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with her than I have that she has a fearsome temper.

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I know that Arlene Foster has a bit of a temper.

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I have received some letters in responses to columns from her,

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but I have read them thinking, you know,

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maybe you should have calmed down before you wrote this.

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-That she was being too sensitive, basically?

-Yes.

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-Do you have a temper?

-People tell me I do have a temper, yes.

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So that's something you would admit?

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Absolutely, yeah.

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Is it something you think you need to rein in or control,

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you know, as First Minister?

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Um, it's funny you should say that,

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because I've been thinking about that,

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and when a woman, er...

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has passion in her voice

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and feels that she wants to say something quite strong

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about an issue, um, she's "emotional".

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But if a man was to do a similar speech or to say something similar,

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he would be "passionate" about an issue.

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So I think there is a difference in how women are perceived.

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Is it sexist of me to ask about temperament?

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Well, it is, a little. But it doesn't annoy me.

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I do think there is a difference

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in the way in which women are perceived in politics.

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As Arlene Foster said earlier, getting to this top job

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is the culmination of a very long journey,

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and one that is probably going to take some time to sink in.

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But that journey started, and her political consciousness was formed,

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in County Fermanagh, where she was born and where she grew up.

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So, what can her past tell us about the kind of First Minister

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she might turn out to be?

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-NEWSREADER:

-This deceptive landscape has been the setting

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for a series of vicious sectarian murders and reprisals.

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The borderlands of rural Fermanagh.

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By the time Arlene Foster was born in 1970, Protestants and Unionists

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living here were already beginning to feel under siege.

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As the Troubles began in earnest, these border areas witnessed

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an exodus of Protestant families.

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Harold Andrews was one of Arlene Foster's neighbours,

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and one of those who refused to leave.

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There was an ethnic cleansing culture going on at the time,

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at night, especially in the winter time, anyway,

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you went in and you locked the door and you never went out,

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sort of thing, after dark, so you didn't.

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I was asked would I not consider leaving the area,

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by senior policemen.

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So the police advised you to leave?

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The police had asked me, would I not consider leaving the area.

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And why didn't you?

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Well, there had been five generations of Andrews

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in this particular area

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and I said the only way I was going to be leaving

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would be in a box, to my local graveyard.

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Arlene Foster, or Arlene Kelly, as she was then,

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lived just two miles down the road from here.

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Her father, John Kelly, was a constable in the RUC.

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In this area in the late 1970s,

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that made him a huge target for the IRA.

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Arlene Foster says that, until about the age of eight,

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she knew nothing about the Troubles,

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knew nothing about political violence,

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until the night in January 1979 when the IRA came

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to the family's isolated rural farmstead

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just up here outside Rosslea, and tried to murder her father.

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This is the original Kelly family homestead.

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The attack happened just here.

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Now, John Kelly, Arlene's father, had a nightly ritual.

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He would come out of the front door of his house just here

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and walk just a couple of metres to here.

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This used to be a cow shed.

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And he would check that his animals

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were securely locked in for the night.

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But on this particular January night, just as he put his hand

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on the lock, two IRA men who were hidden behind a hedge

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a couple of metres down there, opened up with automatic rifles.

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The very first shot grazed John Kelly on the head

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and he immediately dropped to the ground.

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And the many subsequent shots apparently riddled the cow shed behind him.

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My father came crawling in and he was bleeding,

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and he told us all to go upstairs, because in his bedroom

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there were flares which had been fitted in case of an emergency,

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and he put the flares off.

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And we were all lying on the bedroom floor.

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And, um, I think it was less than ten minutes later

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the police arrived,

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and, obviously, my father had to go to hospital after that.

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That must've felt like a very long ten minutes, though.

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It was a very long ten minutes. A very long ten minutes.

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The family came to believe

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that someone from the local Catholic community

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had provided the information that led to the targeting of John Kelly.

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This is the insidious thing at that time.

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If they were to operate, they needed information

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about individuals, and so that information

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had to be given by somebody local, you know?

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And so you started to think, well, who was it that set you up?

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The family had little choice but to move to the nearby town of Lisnaskea.

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Aged 11, Arlene Kelly went

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to Collegiate Girls Grammar School in Enniskillen.

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Kate Doherty was her careers teacher.

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I actually still have the careers record that we kept.

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From the very outset,

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Arlene made it clear that her interests

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were in areas like law and politics.

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Collegiate Grammar School in the 1980s didn't escape the Troubles.

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Over the years, I couldn't tell you how many funerals

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I attended, of usually the fathers of girls.

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Fathers who'd served in the forces in some capacity.

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Then, in November 1987,

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came an event that would traumatise many pupils and teachers.

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-NEWS REPORT:

-A terrorist bomb kills 11 in Northern Ireland,

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timed to coincide with a Remembrance Day ceremony.

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53 others were injured, including many children.

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Arlene Kelly wasn't there that day. But many of her friends were.

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Of course, Marie Wilson, who had been a deputy head girl

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at the Collegiate had been murdered.

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They lived actually very close to school,

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so it was all very...close.

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The next day at school...

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..it was very surreal. It was very quiet

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and just a dreadful, dreadful time,

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watching the multiple funerals taking place.

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But for Arlene Kelly, the worst was still to come.

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A few months later, when she was still just 17,

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the IRA bombed her school bus.

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The IRA risked a dozen young lives in their attempt to kill the driver,

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a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

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I closed my eyes.

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I just didn't know what was going on

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and there was about two or three seconds' silence.

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Then everybody started to scream.

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And I got up and said, "Don't panic, don't panic."

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One of her friends was seriously injured.

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The two girls had been sitting side by side.

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This was one of the seminal moments of Arlene Kelly's life.

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Instead of creating division, the IRA bomb has united the people

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in whose hands Northern Ireland's future lies.

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Were you traumatised by that bomb attack?

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I was, yes. I had nightmares and what have you after it.

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It did have an impact on me.

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Obviously, I remember it very clearly,

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in terms of the bomb going off, the silence,

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which I felt lasted for longer than obviously it did

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after the bomb went off.

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Would you describe yourself at any time as having been...

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bitter about what you saw when you were growing up?

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I have no doubt I was bitter when I was a teenager.

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It was a very difficult thing to have to deal with in a young mind.

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-So I've no doubt that was the case.

-Have you changed?

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Goodness, I hope I have changed. I hope I have matured.

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I hope I realise what was going on and that the vast majority of people

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were not involved in that sort of thing.

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Do you remember doing an interview with Jeremy Paxman

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when you were, I think, 16, just after the bombing?

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-I would have been 17.

-You were 17. Lower sixth, maybe.

-That's right.

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It was you and a young woman called Madonna Murphy.

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-Yes, I do remember Madonna.

-Who was one of the Catholic girls.

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It's just quite interesting in terms of what it said about division then.

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Maybe the division that still exists.

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'Madonna, can I ask you this? It's sometimes a bit hard for us

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'over on this side of the water to understand.'

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-Young Jeremy Paxman.

-Young Jeremy Paxman.

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Young Arlene Foster, as well.

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-I don't remember this at all.

-You don't?

-'What is the effect on Enniskillen of incidents like this?'

5:24:035:24:08

It makes you realise it can't go on.

5:24:085:24:10

You feel as if you have to do something...

5:24:105:24:14

to improve relations between Catholics and Protestants.

5:24:145:24:17

But surely relations are pretty good.

5:24:175:24:19

You two are friends, are you not?

5:24:195:24:20

We're not enemies, but I suppose we never really talk to each other.

5:24:215:24:26

But we will from now on.

5:24:265:24:28

Yeah, we always sat apart.

5:24:285:24:29

In fact, everybody sits apart on our bus.

5:24:295:24:32

'And are you going to change that now, Arlene?'

5:24:335:24:36

Well, I think it's up to the whole bus to change it.

5:24:365:24:38

In fact, it's up to all young people of Northern Ireland

5:24:385:24:41

to change the way, and what is happening,

5:24:415:24:44

to turn against the men of violence.

5:24:445:24:46

Thank you both very much for joining us. Thank you.

5:24:465:24:49

What is your first reaction to that?

5:24:505:24:54

Well, my first reaction is I don't remember that interview, actually.

5:24:545:24:58

-So I've managed to surprise you?

-You have managed to surprise me.

5:24:585:25:01

Absolutely. I hadn't remembered that at all.

5:25:015:25:04

Jeremy Paxman asked you there, "Will you change this?"

5:25:045:25:06

and you said, "Well, it's up to everyone to change it."

5:25:065:25:09

Can you remember what happened after that? Did you still sit apart?

5:25:095:25:12

We did still sit apart, I have to say.

5:25:125:25:13

What struck me about what Madonna said, was

5:25:135:25:16

Paxman says, "Are you friends?" And she says, "We're not enemies."

5:25:165:25:21

And...I was wondering, is that maybe the best we can hope for?

5:25:215:25:26

No, I don't think that's the best we can hope for

5:25:265:25:28

and I know that children across the divide,

5:25:285:25:32

regardless of where we are in Northern Ireland,

5:25:325:25:34

have very strong friendships in a way that we didn't have.

5:25:345:25:37

I mean, you have to remember, on this bus -

5:25:375:25:40

and this is another vivid memory for me -

5:25:405:25:43

when a UDR part-time soldier was murdered in Derrylin,

5:25:435:25:49

a man called Jimmy Graham,

5:25:495:25:51

I was only, I think, 13, 14 at the time...

5:25:515:25:55

..and the young Catholics on the bus that day were cheering.

5:25:575:26:01

You know, because a man had been murdered.

5:26:015:26:04

And that's the sort of life we were living at that time

5:26:045:26:07

so it should be of no surprise that there was a difficulty

5:26:075:26:12

at that time between children from different backgrounds.

5:26:125:26:15

And that stayed with me for quite a while, I have to say.

5:26:155:26:19

Do you find that that experience

5:26:195:26:22

and other experiences makes it very difficult for you to deal with people

5:26:225:26:26

who in the past were involved in violent Republicanism?

5:26:265:26:30

It's challenging. It's difficult.

5:26:305:26:32

But in many ways it spurs me on

5:26:325:26:33

to make sure that it doesn't happen in the future.

5:26:335:26:36

Arlene Foster's relationship with Martin McGuinness

5:26:425:26:45

is said to be business-like, without a lot of personal rapport.

5:26:455:26:50

And there's a connection between the First and Deputy First Ministers

5:26:505:26:54

that might further explain that.

5:26:545:26:56

It goes back to the man

5:26:565:26:58

who Arlene Foster believes tried to kill her father.

5:26:585:27:01

This is Seamus McElwaine.

5:27:045:27:06

A well-known IRA gunman,

5:27:065:27:08

he was convicted of the murder of two off-duty members

5:27:085:27:12

of the security forces in rural Fermanagh,

5:27:125:27:14

but was thought by police to be responsible for many more.

5:27:145:27:18

He was killed in 1986 by the SAS as he set a booby trap bomb,

5:27:185:27:23

just outside the home of Arlene Foster's old neighbour,

5:27:235:27:26

Harold Andrews.

5:27:265:27:27

Just across the field here from where I am,

5:27:295:27:31

Seamus McElwaine came in here to put off a culvert bomb

5:27:315:27:35

directly in front of my own house.

5:27:355:27:37

And had it went off, in the morning, when my wife

5:27:375:27:41

was down with the children sitting up the road,

5:27:415:27:44

they probably would have been blew to bits.

5:27:445:27:46

At Seamus McElwaine's funeral, Martin McGuinness gave the oration.

5:27:485:27:53

He referred to McElwaine as a "saint"

5:27:535:27:56

and said he had been "murdered by a British terrorist".

5:27:565:27:59

Do you think you know the identity

5:28:015:28:03

of the person who tried to kill your father?

5:28:035:28:05

Yes, I do. And he's no longer about.

5:28:055:28:08

No, and...Martin McGuinness spoke at his funeral.

5:28:085:28:13

Yeah.

5:28:135:28:14

That must be quite difficult, even now, surely?

5:28:165:28:19

It is quite difficult. If you talk to Martin McGuinness now,

5:28:195:28:23

he will say, and I heard him say just recently,

5:28:235:28:27

that Unionists aren't the enemy, the enemy is poverty.

5:28:275:28:29

The enemy is unemployment, the enemy is this, that and the other.

5:28:295:28:32

That's fine, but it doesn't take away from the fact

5:28:325:28:35

that he thought it appropriate to speak at Seamus McElwaine's funeral.

5:28:355:28:39

A man who had been responsible for murdering...

5:28:395:28:44

many people in County Fermanagh.

5:28:445:28:48

Earlier today, Martin McGuinness said that there is hurt on all sides,

5:28:485:28:52

but that he and Arlene Foster can now give positive leadership.

5:28:525:28:56

Newton Emerson believes that those personal experiences

5:28:575:29:01

give Arlene Foster a great deal of credibility amongst Unionist voters.

5:29:015:29:05

Foster has pitched herself with a particular message to the DUP base,

5:29:055:29:09

which is that she is a Troubles victim and an RUC man's daughter.

5:29:095:29:15

It plays to the whole belief

5:29:155:29:18

that the Troubles were essentially a crimewave.

5:29:185:29:22

It appeals in particular to the DUP

5:29:225:29:24

by going straight down the middle of all its religious

5:29:245:29:28

and secular and UUP and ex-UUP factions.

5:29:285:29:30

That's a kind of universal message to the broad Unionist base.

5:29:305:29:35

In 1989, Arlene Foster went to Queen's University in Belfast,

5:29:395:29:44

to study law and, on day one, joined the Ulster Unionist Party.

5:29:445:29:48

She soon made a name for herself.

5:29:485:29:51

I've been talking to quite a few members of the Unionist community

5:29:515:29:55

on the young side of things and they feel it is on a nationalist agenda.

5:29:555:30:00

After graduating, she moved back to Fermanagh

5:30:055:30:08

to train as a solicitor, got married and started a family.

5:30:085:30:12

She worked in the law firm of James Cooper,

5:30:125:30:14

a senior figure in the Ulster Unionist Party.

5:30:145:30:18

But as David Trimble led the party in peace negotiations with Sinn Fein,

5:30:185:30:22

Arlene Foster objected.

5:30:225:30:24

She thought Trimble, and his supporters, like James Cooper,

5:30:245:30:28

her boss, were moving too fast.

5:30:285:30:30

Certainly, whilst we managed to keep politics out of the office here,

5:30:315:30:36

in our professional relationship, a sort of deep unease developed.

5:30:365:30:40

-Personally?

-Well, I wouldn't call it personally,

5:30:405:30:43

but it was clear that Arlene...

5:30:435:30:46

had took a different political view from me.

5:30:465:30:49

Working just down the hall is his opponent for the nomination.

5:30:495:30:52

Arlene Foster, a solicitor employed by the practice,

5:30:525:30:56

is against the Good Friday Agreement.

5:30:565:30:58

I can remember well, even in this office, we would have one TV crew

5:30:585:31:02

interviewing her about politics and another one interviewing me

5:31:025:31:06

and we were clearly saying different things.

5:31:065:31:09

-That is pretty awkward.

-It was pretty awkward.

5:31:095:31:12

In 2003, Arlene Foster was elected as an Ulster Unionist MLA for Fermanagh

5:31:135:31:18

and South Tyrone, despite being openly critical of David Trimble.

5:31:185:31:22

Then, just a few weeks later, in early 2004, she made perhaps

5:31:225:31:27

the single most significant political decision of her life.

5:31:275:31:31

She defected to the DUP.

5:31:315:31:33

So I was faced with a decision.

5:31:345:31:36

I either remain within the Ulster Unionist Party

5:31:365:31:39

and abandon the principles which I have believed in

5:31:395:31:42

since I was a teenager, or I leave.

5:31:425:31:45

-Did you feel betrayed by her?

-I am probably more pragmatic than most.

5:31:455:31:50

But I think a lot of people in Fermanagh Unionism felt betrayed.

5:31:505:31:55

I was disappointed.

5:31:555:31:56

She was after winning her position as an Ulster Unionist.

5:31:565:32:01

And then inside a matter of ten days, she jumped ship,

5:32:015:32:05

as the saying goes, and joined the DUP.

5:32:055:32:07

I was disappointed.

5:32:075:32:09

Did you agonise over that,

5:32:095:32:11

did you ever have a sense that you were betraying people?

5:32:115:32:15

It was difficult. But I had to do what I thought was right.

5:32:155:32:20

But did you ever feel, even on a personal level, in terms

5:32:205:32:23

of the people you would have been working with, did you ever feel bad?

5:32:235:32:26

Look, Declan, the unfortunate thing around the Ulster Unionist Party

5:32:265:32:32

is that a lot of people had already left at that stage.

5:32:325:32:34

And, frankly, the people that stayed and who I was friendly with,

5:32:345:32:38

I'm still friendly with today.

5:32:385:32:40

Arlene Foster became the trusted protege of Peter Robinson,

5:32:415:32:45

and her loyalty was repaid.

5:32:455:32:47

She survived reshuffle after reshuffle,

5:32:475:32:50

spending more time at the Executive table as a minister

5:32:505:32:53

than anyone else except for Robinson and McGuinness.

5:32:535:32:58

Robinson obviously saw a kindred spirit in Arlene Foster

5:32:585:33:02

and someone who he trusted with his vision

5:33:025:33:04

of how the party would develop.

5:33:045:33:05

And I think it's pretty easy to see how he saw that.

5:33:055:33:09

Foster is not especially moderate, but not a hardliner.

5:33:095:33:13

She's not on the fundamentalist wing of the party

5:33:135:33:15

but nor is she particularly socially liberal

5:33:155:33:19

and she is ex-UUP but she has been very hard-working

5:33:195:33:24

at establishing herself across the DUP base.

5:33:245:33:27

In 2010, when Peter Robinson stepped aside for six weeks

5:33:275:33:30

following a Spotlight investigation into financial transactions

5:33:305:33:35

arising out of his wife's affair with Kirk McCambley,

5:33:355:33:37

Arlene Foster became acting First Minister.

5:33:375:33:41

She was now a clear contender for the leadership of the DUP.

5:33:415:33:45

My role in all of this

5:33:455:33:47

is to deal with the routine issues in relation to OFMDFM,

5:33:475:33:50

to ensure that things run smoothly.

5:33:505:33:53

Does this elevation for you today put you in the prime position

5:33:535:33:56

for becoming the leader of the party?

5:33:565:33:59

I wouldn't say that at all.

5:33:595:34:01

In 2014, Arlene Foster was featured

5:34:015:34:03

in a Spotlight programme about MLAs' expenses.

5:34:035:34:06

The programme investigated her business relationship

5:34:065:34:09

with this man, David Mahon.

5:34:095:34:11

He's a leading property dealer in County Fermanagh

5:34:115:34:14

and a senior figure in the Orange Order.

5:34:145:34:16

I have my son here which is a member of the lodge and my grandson,

5:34:165:34:20

which is wearing a wee lodge collaret.

5:34:205:34:23

He featured in a separate Spotlight investigation last year,

5:34:235:34:26

when I put allegations to him that some of the property companies

5:34:265:34:30

he controlled appeared to be part of an agenda,

5:34:305:34:32

inspired by the Orange Order,

5:34:325:34:34

to keep land in border areas in the hands of Protestants.

5:34:345:34:39

So this idea that people have told us about,

5:34:395:34:41

that there was a movement, particularly after Drumcree

5:34:415:34:45

in order to invest in properties like that on contentious parade routes,

5:34:455:34:48

or buy up particular bits of land, or property,

5:34:485:34:50

doesn't ring a bell with you?

5:34:505:34:52

It doesn't ring a bell with me, but I'm not confirming or denying it.

5:34:525:34:55

The Spotlight programme on MLAs' expanses revealed how Arlene Foster

5:34:555:35:00

rented two constituency offices from David Mahon,

5:35:005:35:03

and he was involved in selling property to her and her husband.

5:35:035:35:06

One of the offices she occupied was rented from David Mahon

5:35:065:35:10

at a very low rent, and the programme investigated

5:35:105:35:13

whether it could be construed as a gift.

5:35:135:35:16

Arlene Foster vigorously denied she had broken any rules,

5:35:165:35:20

and also took to the airwaves to criticise the BBC.

5:35:205:35:22

This is typical, very typical of the BBC

5:35:245:35:27

and the parasitical nature of the BBC

5:35:275:35:30

and the fact they want to give out a diet of bad news and negativity

5:35:305:35:34

to the people of Northern Ireland on an ongoing basis.

5:35:345:35:37

Why did you react like that?

5:35:375:35:39

I think, looking back at that time, I was angry and upset,

5:35:395:35:45

because, for me, my reputation is very, very important.

5:35:455:35:49

As well as that, it was a particularly difficult time

5:35:495:35:52

for me in terms of my personal life.

5:35:525:35:56

Someone very close to me had passed away.

5:35:565:35:58

And...you know, we all make mistakes.

5:35:585:36:01

We all say things that perhaps with hindsight we shouldn't have said

5:36:015:36:05

but it was a particularly difficult time.

5:36:055:36:08

Arlene Foster has been described

5:36:125:36:14

as the most powerful politician in Northern Ireland.

5:36:145:36:18

If she is, it's a power heavily restricted by the nature

5:36:185:36:22

of the political arrangements between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

5:36:225:36:26

You're working with a party there,

5:36:265:36:28

in government, who don't necessarily want Northern Ireland to work,

5:36:285:36:32

who just see it as a stepping stone towards a united Ireland.

5:36:325:36:36

There are some in Sinn Fein,

5:36:365:36:37

most of Sinn Fein can't even say the name of the country,

5:36:375:36:41

never mind try to make it work.

5:36:415:36:43

But do I believe that some of Sinn Fein

5:36:435:36:46

want to do good for the people who live here,

5:36:465:36:49

regardless of what you would call it? Yes, I do.

5:36:495:36:52

I believe that the future of this country

5:36:525:36:54

is firmly within the United Kingdom. I don't believe it's something

5:36:545:36:57

that is thought about by people on a daily basis, to be honest.

5:36:575:37:02

I think most people are more concerned with their daily lives

5:37:025:37:06

and how things are going for their children

5:37:065:37:08

and how well they're doing in their job

5:37:085:37:10

and, "Is there a health care service to look after my elderly parents?"

5:37:105:37:13

Those are the things that affect people on a daily basis

5:37:135:37:16

and frankly they're not really thinking

5:37:165:37:18

about the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

5:37:185:37:20

Now, Arlene Foster is in a position

5:37:205:37:23

to make a difference to all of those issues.

5:37:235:37:26

But it's been a long journey to get there.

5:37:265:37:29

What has happened to Arlene, the road that she has travelled,

5:37:295:37:32

I think helps to...

5:37:325:37:34

Sometimes when you talk about things in the abstract,

5:37:345:37:38

it's very hard to communicate them.

5:37:385:37:40

But when you look at one person's life, and what has happened to them,

5:37:405:37:44

I think that can help to bring home to younger people

5:37:445:37:47

just what it was like. Although they're never...

5:37:475:37:50

We hope they will never have to experience

5:37:505:37:53

anything like she experienced.

5:37:535:37:55

Arlene Foster grew up in a very different Northern Ireland

5:37:565:38:00

to the one which we know today.

5:38:005:38:02

It was a place of real threat and constant fear.

5:38:025:38:06

Her experience of it made her who she is.

5:38:065:38:10

But now there's a new chapter,

5:38:105:38:12

in which she and her former enemy Martin McGuinness

5:38:125:38:15

will play a significant role.

5:38:155:38:17

-How's Arlene?

-I'm well.

5:38:195:38:21

Proving once again that in politics, nothing is impossible.

5:38:215:38:25

Exclusive filming with new first minister Arlene Foster in her first month in office. Reporter Declan Lawn examines her rise from a childhood during the Troubles in rural Fermanagh to the top of Northern Ireland's political establishment.


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