First woman and the youngest person to hold the top post in any United Kingdom devolved administration. And only the second woman, after a certain Margaret Thatcher, to head up any Government in these islands.

By any stretch of the imagination, it's heady stuff and Arlene Foster's elevation on Monday to First Minister, however temporary, is a classic "local girl does good" story.

Not everybody will wish her well -- this is the world of politics after all -- but political allies and foes alike will not be surprised to see Mrs. Foster rising to this height. Everyone will recognise her talent and ability as a public representative.

No surprise? Well, of course, people in Arlene's home constituency will have been as astonished as everyone else at the speed and nature of events over the past week in Northern Ireland politics. But even over the week-end as the media frenzy already had consigned First Minister Peter Robinson to back bench status, Mrs. Foster was being tipped as one of the favourites to lead the DUP into the post-Peter and Iris era.

There's a character called Jack Burton in the cult film "Big Trouble in Little China". In one situation, a Chinese friend asks: "You ready Jack?" "I was born ready," replies Jack.

The scene came to mind on Monday afternoon, imagining Arlene being asked if she was prepared to step in as First Minister.

She has innate confidence in her own ability and has been through a maelstrom in her political career.

Arlene Foster is Fermanagh through and through and despite her high profile remains a familiar figure in the county in many areas of life.

She was born in 1970 and initially brought up at Dernawilt near Rosslea, one of three girls and a boy of Johnny and Georgina Kelly.

She's the third in the family; her older sister, Julie, is also a Mrs. Foster with the two Kelly sisters marrying two brothers, Brian and Ian Foster.

In a recent interview with the Impartial Reporter, Arlene described her early childhood on a Border farm as "idyllic" as she recalled July birthday parties in hayfields. Her early experiences included attending the small Aughadrumsee primary school, and it's noticeable that one of the many issues she fights for at Stormont is the retention of small rural schools.

Arlene's background as a child of the Troubles has been well-documented in the acres of coverage since Monday; how her father, a policeman, survived a murder bid when shot in the head by the IRA in an ambush when he was out putting the cattle in the byre for the night.

Then only eight, Arlene recalled of the attack: "My mother just froze; I still remember the look on her face. Daddy came crawling into the house with blood spewing from his head." The family then moved to Lisnaskea and later Arlene was to come into direct personal contact with the Troubles again. The Provisional IRA detonated a bomb on a school bus being driven by a part-time UDR man bringing Arlene and fellow-pupils to the Collegiate School in Enniskillen.

It was at this school that Arlene took a particular interest in history, and when she went on to Queen's University in Belfast to study law she played an active part in Queen's Unionist Association.

It is perhaps difficult for people from outside of Northern Ireland to imagine that someone born in 1970, brought up on the Border, who came face to face with violence and developed a passion for politics while still a student would live to all intents and purposes a normal life.

But Arlene did that, returning home on a regular basis to spend time with friends and family, going out socially, attending church etc.

In 1995, she married Brian Foster and now her husband and young family of Sarah, George and Ben (the oldest is nine) remain top priority.

Reading a bedtime story is as important, if not more, than absorbing the latest Ministerial paper.

But politics played and continues to play a central role in her life.

"A lot was going on at that time in the 80s. It was very hard not to feel involved in politics, and I was especially interested in history," she once said.

And coming from Fermanagh, it was natural that her early years in politics would be in the Ulster Unionist Party which was particularly strong in the county. However, the 20-something student with a law degree was never going to be one of the teamakers and had plenty to contribute, even in a party whose grandees tended to be older men.

So when she felt increasingly disillusioned by the direction of the David Trimble leadership in the 1990s, there would be much angst on all sides. "Emotional turmoil" she calls it, probably with some understatement.

By now a qualified solicitor, her employer James Cooper was a Trimble acolyte and party chairman of the Ulster Unionists. Her husband's uncle, Sam Foster was prominent in the party and chosen by David Trimble to be Environment Minister in the first Executive after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

And many of Arlene's political friends were in Ulster Unionism.

So it took some determination to take the opposite view.

For some time, Arlene fought her case within the party, and won an Assembly seat for the UUP in 2003. But divisions generally within the party came to a head later that year and Arlene, along with Jeffrey Donaldson and Norah Beare defected to the Ian Paisley-led DUP. If Arlene found something of a glass ceiling in her former party, her career took off after joining the DUP in early 2004.

In 2005, Mrs.Foster won a seat for the DUP on Fermanagh District Council. Later that year she fought the Fermanagh-south Tyrone seat at the Westminster general election, but despite polling strongly lost out to fellow-Minister, Michelle Gildernew and in 2007 she retained her Assembly seat in the same consituency, this time topping the poll as a DUP candidate.

Her reward in 2007 was to become Environment Minister, appearing in the iconic photograph of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams as the DUP and Sinn Fein cut an historic power-sharing deal.

Mrs. Foster's star continued to rise and after a successful stint at Environment, she was given the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment portfolio.

She insists that her DETI job will not suffer as she takes on the temporary extra responsibility.

So it's fair to say, Arlene Foster's rise has been meteoric and there's no doubt that all sides have been impressed by the grasp of issues that she articulates, whether on the floor of the Assembly or on radio phone-ins.

Much has been written and said about Arlene Foster as a person in the last few days, with journalists inevitably asking former friends and colleagues "what's she really like?". Largely speaking, though, with Arlene Foster what you see is what you get.

She's a good people person, friendly, engaging and humourous. But when it comes to having something to say, she's tough and plain-speaking. To opponents' descriptions of her as a lame duck this week, her sardonic response was "quack, quack!" The image of a Strictly Come Dancing fan, lover of expensive designer shoes singing loudly along with the car radio doesn't quite hit the mark.

She is a grounded, normal individual whose personal life revolves around family. And her faith, she says, is extremely important. She attends Colebrooke Parish Church on Sunday, describing herself as an evangelical Protestant. Her links with the church include a long association with the Girl Guide movement.

When it comes to politics Arlene Foster is, it has to be said, deadly serious. Often her interests reflect her formative years; her family and legal background left her well-placed to be a member of the Nothern Ireland Policing Board which she left in 2007 after becoming a Minister. She has readily admitted that relationships with Republicans were difficult but she has to deal with issues in a professional manner.

Her interest in Fermanagh sees her play a role in helping flood victims or bringing jobs here.

Arlene Foster insists that her role as First Minister will last only six weeks; who knows what the next five weeks hold never mind into 2010.

By the way, the character Jack Burton that I mentioned? The film was a fictional one about a mythical Chinese underworld. Do you get the feeling that dealing with the Triad mob could just be a little simpler that living among the machinations of Stormont at the moment?