Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party was formally elected yesterday to serve as Northern Ireland’s First Minister.
She is the first woman to hold the position, and, at 45-years-old, she is also the youngest.
In addition, Foster is also the first woman leader of her political party, the DUP. She was elected to the role following former First Minister Peter Robinson’s announcement late last year that he would be stepping down – which he formally did yesterday.
Following her formal election by the Northern Assembly yesterday, Foster spoke of her pride in making history and not only spoke of her legal, but also her “moral imperative,” to serve all of the people of Northern Ireland, the Irish Times reported.
"I can think of no greater honor than to have the opportunity to serve my country and the people of Northern Ireland as their first minister," Foster said.
"I am truly humbled by the trust and confidence which has been placed in me."
Foster also explained that she had grown tired of Stormont being a "watchword for arguing and bickering."
"That's not why our people elected us; they did so to provide a better future for us all. I will do all I can to change the political culture of this place, but I can't change that alone,” she said.
"We can only do it by working together."
Martin McGuinness also returned to his seat as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister yesterday, with he and Foster both taking their pledge of office to work with the government’s power-sharing structure and bodies.
McGuinness told the BBC that he anticipates a “good” and “friendly” working relationship with Foster.
"I've been very encouraged by what Arlene has been saying publicly – about not letting the past effectively become a weight around our shoulders.
"Yes, we shouldn't forget it and we do need to support victims, but we need to get on with the business of government and normalizing politics here in the north of Ireland," he said.
Foster is a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party and was encouraged by Robinson to leave the UUP and join the DUP in 2003.
She was born and raised near Lisnaskea in County Fermanagh. During the Troubles she survived a bomb attack on her school bus, which was driven by a member of the Ulster Defense Regiment. Foster's father was a member of the RUC (Northern Ireland's former police force) and she witnessed an attempt on his life by republicans in the family home, during which a young Foster was forced to hide in her bedroom closet.
She was educated at Queens University and graduated with a degree in law. She practiced as a solicitor in Portadown and Enniskillen.
She developed a keen interest in politics at college. She joined the Ulster Unionist Association in Queens and was chairman of the association from 1992 – 1993.
Foster also chaired the youth wing of the UUP in 1995. She became honorary secretary of the UUP's council in 1996 and she held that position until she left the party in 2003.
Foster personally developed strong views about the future of unionism and later left the UUP with Jeffrey Donaldson and Norah Beare.
Foster was appointed Minister for the Environment in 2007 and later, following a reshuffle, was appointed to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in June 2008.
Prior to her new appointment as First Minister, Foster was serving as Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister.
The MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Foster has fulfilled the responsibilities of interim First Minister twice since joining the DUP – from September 10 to October 20 during the Assembly crisis last year, and between January 11 and February 3, 2010 when Robinson temporarily stepped aside following a BBC "Spotlight" program that revealed his wife’s affair and that the Robinsons allegedly received financial support from property speculators.
Foster was the only DUP Minister not to temporarily resign earlier this year when Robinson and his MEPs walked out of the Assembly in reaction to claims that paramilitaries had been behind the murder of two former IRA men last summer.
Thus far, as First Minister, she has vowed to reject any big changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation and confirmed that she will not be attending the 1916 Rising centenary celebrations in Dublin.
Foster and McGuinness will be visiting the US in March.
Best wishes to new FM Arlene Foster & reappointed dFM Martin McGuinness. We look forward to their US visit in March. pic.twitter.com/HEsr00foy2— NI Bureau (@NI_Bureau) January 11, 2016