FIRST Minister elect Arlene Foster says she will not be commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising.

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party will become first minister on Monday in a year that sees the centenary of the Republican rebellion and the Battle of the Somme. 

In an interview with The Impartial Reporter, Mrs. Foster was asked if she would attend an event as first minister to mark the Easter Rising. 

“The rebellion which took place 100 years ago this Easter was directly to attack the state to which I owe my allegiance. I don’t think I would be invited, but even if I was invited I certainly would not be going to commemorate a violent attack on the United Kingdom,” she said.

Mrs. Foster said she did not think it would be “expected” of her to attend a commemorative event and added: “I don’t think they are going to ask any members of the Royal family for example to attend the so-called commemorations.”

“History tells us that it happened and it led in many ways to the later formation of the Republic of Ireland breaking away from the rest of the Kingdom in a very violent way. You have to remember that the rebellion led to a loss of hundreds of lives, Irish people being killed, I would say needlessly, at that time. I can understand why those of a republican deposition would want to commemorate that event, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with it,” she added.

The Fermanagh-south Tyrone MLA says she is “excited” about taking over from Peter Robinson as first minister and will pay tribute to him in the Assembly next week. 

“I have had messages from young people saying they are looking forward to Northern Ireland under my leadership,” she said, adding that she wants to improve education.

“While we have a good education system in terms of our grammar school system here there are some perhaps who don’t succeed in the secondary system and instead of breaking what does work we need to look at what is not working and try to fix that. 

“We need to make sure that our young people are equipped for the economy of the future. People need to have a skill for their future work life, for their home life. There is an issue with working class Protestant boys. Why are they not aspiring for better?” she asked.

Mrs. Foster does not believe that schools with poor exam results should be punished. 

“I think you should seek to find out what the problem is because for far too long particularly Sinn Fein ministers talk about our education system as failing our young people. I don’t accept it is failing all of our young people,” she said. 

Mrs. Foster said issues regarding the past “are still lingering” and have to be dealt with. 

As first minister she wants to make sure that the infrastructure that has been promised in Fermanagh proceeds, such as the Enniskillen Southern Bypass. 
“I want to see that proceed because I think it would help the traffic in Enniskillen. I would like to see a more strategic look at what we need in terms of not just roads but telecoms as well,” she said.

This week Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to lead a renewed debate on Scottish Independence, a move described by Mrs. Foster as “a fundamental mistake by Nicola Sturgeon.”

“She had promised she would not come back to this issue within a generation and now she’s coming back to it within a year. I think the electorate will punish her for that.”

Asked if she believed that a United Ireland would happen in her lifetime, Mrs. Foster said: “No not at all, definitely not.”

Mrs. Foster praised Councillor Raymond Farrell who quit the UUP last year and was asked if she was going to lure the Independent Unionist back to the DUP. 

“Raymond is a very good councillor and I said when he left the UUP that I had the highest respect for Raymond. He knows that; he works with me, he works with my colleagues as well and I am sure that will continue,” she said.

Asked if she will miss her political opponent, Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan who is not expected to stand in this year’s Assembly election, Mrs. Foster said: “The question is will the people of Fermanagh-south Tyrone miss Phil Flanagan? I certainly won’t miss his Twitter account.”