Following the announcement by the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster MLA, that she intends to step down from her roles as First Minister and DUP Leader, I want to wish Arlene the very best for the future.
She has served during what has been a period of considerable change and challenge in Northern Ireland.
She has worked hard over many years as an elected representative for the constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone.
I know especially how proud Arlene is of her homeplace of County Fermanagh.
Political leadership is often not easy and takes courage.
The re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive in January 2020 with Arlene Foster as First Minister and Michelle O’Neill as deputy First Minister was a key development in supporting peace and stability for all the people of these islands.
The Northern Ireland Executive under their leadership has had to grapple with the Covid pandemic almost since the beginning, and I pay tribute to Arlene’s role in guiding Northern Ireland through this challenging period.
As the first female leader of the DUP and the first female First Minister of Northern Ireland, working alongside the deputy First Minister, she sent a strong message to women about what can be achieved in and through politics.
I have had a positive working relationship with Arlene in a variety of roles over the years.
In particular I valued the constructive engagement, notwithstanding our differences, we have had in our respective roles as Taoiseach and First Minister.
As a person who has personal experience of the suffering that violence brings, Arlene knows more than most how difficult it is, but also how important it is, to work together for the peace and prosperity for all.
I am sure that she will continue to make an important contribution to public life.
I send my best wishes to her and her family for the future.