Arlene Foster appointed as Northern Ireland’s First Minister
"To serve as First Minister of Northern Ireland is deeply humbling and brings with it an enormous responsibility to the people we represent."
Arlene Foster has been appointed as First Minister of Northern Ireland following the announcement of the re-opening of Stormont.
On Saturday afternoon (11 January), the Democratic Unionist Party leader was officially confirmed in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
After three years of deadlock, power-sharing is set to return.
The last DUP/Sinn Féin-led coalition government collapsed in January 2017 over a row about a botched green energy scheme and the Irish language act.
On Friday, the DUP signalled their tentative support of a draft deal to restore Stormont's political institutions.
Foster said there was a basis to re-establish the devolved institutions in a "fair and balanced way," while Sinn Féin later backed the move to restore power-sharing.
Speaking on Saturday, Foster highlighted the "enormous responsibility to the people we represent," noting that serving in the position is "deeply humbling".
"A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then but today the real work starts," said Foster.
"The last three years have focused too much on division and recrimination. There’s plenty of blame to go around but the time has come to move forward with resolution.
"The lessons have been learned. It’s time to get Northern Ireland moving forward again."
Foster, who will count Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill as her Deputy First Minister, also sounded a note of caution.
"However, the restoration of this Assembly and Executive alone will not solve our waiting lists or reduce the staff pressures in our hospitals.
"Indeed, simply filling posts will not resolve the mental health challenges our society is facing at the moment.
"There needs to be action. Decisions need to be made."
Addressing her new partnership with Michelle O'Neill, Foster noted:
"We have many differences. Michelle’s narrative of the past 40 years could not be more different to mine. I’m not sure we will ever agree on much about the past, but we can agree there was too much suffering, and that we cannot allow society to drift backwards and allow division to grow.
"Northern Ireland is succeeding in many ways. It’s time for Stormont to move forward and show that ‘together we are stronger’ for the benefit of everyone."