Sam Foster: Straight talker with common touch

Sam Foster
Sam Foster

Sam Foster was a straight-talking man who rose to high public office, not forgeting his Fermanagh roots, and had a common touch approach.

He was a staunch unionist of the breed found in the Ulster border counties, like Fermanagh. Sam, like other gallant folk in that region, wore the uniform of the Crown – in the Ulster Special Constabulary, and during the Troubles as a UDR major.

His commitment to the Ulster Unionist Party was nurtured in a county where Protestants have stood four-square for unionism from the inception of Northern Ireland to the present day, and his membership of the Orange and Royal Black institutions complemented his passion for the cause.

I got to know Sam well in the early 1980s, through the loyal orders. And when he set about fund-raising work for unionism in Co Fermanagh, he sought my help in promoting country music shows at the spacious Unionist centre in Enniskillen town centre.

For a decade, these annual events attracted packed houses, raising thousands of pounds.

Sam, being an enterprising individual, had a novel approach in selling the shows. He engaged unionist branches, lodges and preceptories in the county, with a promise that all profits would be shared among those who sold the tickets. All benefited from Sam’s shows. Indeed, after the 1987 Ennniskillen bombing, Sam organised two major shows, raising money for the memorial fund. My sympathy goes to his wife and family.