Political rivals praise Arlene Foster’s ‘utmost dignity’
Arlene Foster has been thanked for her commitment, service and sacrifices, as political opponents united at Stormont to pay tribute upon her resignation as First Minister.
Following Mrs Foster’s personal statement, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said she had always carried herself with the “utmost dignity”.
He told the Assembly: “Even when that ‘et tu, Brute’ moment came from those who you would have called your friends, I think you held yourself with incredible dignity.
“If there is something I will reflect on in the months and years ahead, is just how our First Minister went through this crisis and many other crises before holding your head up high, and you should be proud.”
Mr Beattie added: “It’s noticed politically and it’s noticed by society in general.
“I don’t mean just Northern Ireland, I mean further afield.
“There was lots to be done, it wasn’t all completed but I thought that was a fine final speech as you resigned. You could have made much mischief in the House, but you didn’t, and set a very clear path.”
Representing the SDLP, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon told the Assembly that Mrs Foster will have inspired many young girls to realise there should be “no limit on their ambitions”.
She added: “Politics is never easy, and the last few weeks, I know, will not have been easy for the First Minister and her family.
“Leadership is never easy and leadership of our five-party Executive is not easy. It is incredibly challenging.”
Alliance Party leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long thanked Arlene Foster for her efforts in leading the Executive.
Mrs Long said: “It would be fair to say that we have not always seen eye-to-eye and have had our fair share of disagreements over the years, some of them can even be described as heated.
“However, we have been able to disagree and continue to work together to deliver the best possible outcomes for those we represent.”
The Alliance leader added: “The things that you remember most about people are often not the big public events and set pieces but the quiet personal moments when you see the true measure of someone and who they really are.
“I will always recall that Arlene was the first unionist politician to come to speak to me to offer solidarity and support and to ask how I was the day after I received my first death threat during the flags protest.
“That small gesture probably meant more to me than she knew, but it stood out because she was one of only two people who did so that day.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said “retiring” is the last word you would associate with Arlene Foster.
He added: “We have had many disagreements, still have. But she has always conducted her office in a manner with considerable poise and presence, which will not be easy to replicate.
“In all my dealings with her, I found her straightforward and honourable.
“It could not be said that her removal from office was either straightforward or honourable.”
Mr Allister said that process had left a “considerable scar on the body politic”.