New DUP leader: ‘I want this to be a golden age in Northern Ireland’s history’

New DUP leader Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. ''She will become first minister in January. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
New DUP leader Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. ''She will become first minister in January. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Christmas is a time for re-charging our batteries and preparing to tackle the challenges that we may face in the year to come.

As I take up my new role, I am deeply conscious of my personal responsibility to each and every person in Northern Ireland. I promise you all that I will do my utmost to make our country the best part of the United Kingdom in which to live, work and raise a family.

As a mother, I have an special interest in making Northern Ireland work. I want my children to want to stay in Northern Ireland. When I was a child, we had a great people but there was little hope. I will work hard to ensure that our children grow up in a country they will be proud to call home. N. Ireland’s best is yet to come.

Northern Ireland is getting better. We are by far one of the fastest growing economic regions of the United Kingdom and with the power to set our own levels of corporation tax we will be able to set even greater records in job creation than we have up to this point. We have the most highly skilled and highly educated workforce in the United Kingdom. We have so much to offer, but I am conscious that there are still some people who feel left behind.

I am determined that no citizen of Northern Ireland starting out in life will be written off before they reach adulthood. The party I lead will be working hard to tackle educational underachievement, particularly amongst young boys. We will re-double our efforts to ensure practical and meaningful solutions are implemented to tackle this problem.

Equally, those who endured the worst of the Troubles and kept our country going through the darkest days, can be assured that I am on your side. The Troubles affected our home in a way I will never forget or allow anyone to rewrite.

I will safeguard those measures that we have introduced to help our older people including the free bus pass and winter fuel payments.

At Christmas we reflect on where we have come from, where we are right now and where we are going in the future. We, the people of Northern Ireland can do so with pride. We have all come so far and life is better than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Our country will be 100 years old by the end of the next Assembly term. I want to lead with each and every one of you in making the start of our second century a golden age in Northern Ireland’s history. By working together we can do it. All I ask is for your help and support in making it happen.

Finally, if someone had suggested to me 20 years ago that one day I would follow in the footsteps of Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson to become the leader of the DUP, I would have laughed at them, but life is a journey not a series of isolated events. When we look back, as many people do at Christmas time, we can be astonished to see just how long and winding the road has been. I want to say to anyone who is at the same starting point I was at 20 years ago that the DUP is the party for Northern Ireland and you can be sure of a warm welcome. I welcome with open arms into our party anyone who shares our core values of support for the union, the rule of law and fairness for all.

I send you all the warmest Christmas greetings from Fermanagh. I pray it’s a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year for you and your family.

Mrs Foster is DUP leader and becomes first minister in January