Former First Minister of Northern Ireland, Dame Arlene Foster is now a popular writer, broadcaster, political commentator and guest speaker.
Described in 2017 as the second most powerful woman in UK politics (second only to the Prime Minister of the time, Theresa May), she made her first media appearance on BBC Newsnight when she was 17 years old after the IRA bombed her school bus. This was only the latest such attack in a time where these attacks were frequent. When she was a child she was forced to move with her family after an attack on their family home, and her father, a Royal Ulster Constabulary Reservist, was shot in a night-time assassination attempt and severely injured.
It was these personal experiences, plus what she learned at the University of Belfast, which sparked a political interest.
Since resigning as First Minister, she is now a popular keynote speaker on a range of important issues that reach far wider than the borders of Northern Ireland.
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Whilst she initially trained as a lawyer at the Queen’s University, Belfast, Dame Arlene Foster was also part of the Queen’s Unionist Association, thus beginning her long interest in politics.
Over the years, Arlene has tirelessly advocated for women’s rights and to see more women in public roles – a promise she has led, becoming the first female First Minister. She is also very passionate about empowering women from disadvantaged backgrounds to move into a public life, as well as highlighting the abuse many public women face online.
During her political career, she served as Minister for the Environment from 2007 to 2008, when she was appointed Minister for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment. She held this position until 2015, before becoming the Minister for Finance and Personnel. A large part of this job was to promote Northern Ireland’s tourism industry, succeeding in bringing the MTV EMA Awards, the Giro d’Italia and the Irish Open to the country and securing investment into the country’s economy.
She was also a member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 2003 to 2021, as well as the Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) between 2015 and 2021
She was appointed First Minister in 2016, becoming both the youngest person to hold the post and Northern Ireland’s first female First Minister, a post she held on and off until resigning in 2021.
Since leaving political office, she has embarked on a career in both broadcasting and in print media. In 2021, she was announced as a broadcaster on the new channel GB News. She presents The Briefing With Arlene Foster (2021) each week, as well as appearing on the channel’s Sunday political magazine show, The Political Correction (2021-). She has also appeared as a guest on Mark Steyn (2022), The Great British Breakfast (2022), Neil Oliver Live (2022), Sky News Today (2020-2021), BBC World News America (2021) and Good Morning Britain (2017-2019), amongst many other news shows.
She has written columns for the Local Women magazine, and is a frequent contributor to The Express newspaper, where she has covered topics including the IRA and the Irish Troubles, the royal family, Brexit, US Politics, the Ukrainian/Russian war of 2022 and benefits.
– Post-Conflict Resolution: the challenges of bringing peace and stability to a nation
– The Future of the Union
– Brexit: Understanding the issues
– Resilience in Public Life
– Women in Public Life
Humble beginnings to first female First Minister of Northern Ireland: This is Arlene’s own story of coming from a rural country area and humble background to becoming the second most powerful female UK politician as First Minister of Northern Ireland.
Being a woman in a man’s world: Arlene aims to inspire young women in particular that it doesn’t matter where you come from, anyone can achieve great things as long as you’re determined, resilient and organised.
Leadership in challenging circumstances: Arlene talks about how to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’; how to be positive when all around you are not;, and why it is a necessity to be resilient as a leader.
Getting to the right decision: Arlene discusses the importance of understanding the culture you’re in and how to manage change in a way which provides support from people who may have previously been against you.
Social media abuse and the real harm that it can cause: Arlene discusses her first-hand experiences of online abuse, as well as the harmful effects it has on impressionable young, vulnerable children.
Discovering the real Ireland: As the ex-Minster for Tourism for Northern Ireland, Arlene shares some of the challenges and successes of the tourism industry.