The newest MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone has taken her seat at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mrs. Deborah Erskine, a former Erne North DUP councillor, DUP press officer and former journalist was announced as the latest co-option on Thursday last. She succeeded her mentor former First Minister Arlene Foster who had represented the constituency for almost 18 years.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Mrs Erskine said: "It is a huge honour to be selected to represent the place where you live, I don't take that for granted. When I was campaigning to become a councillor you one hundred per cent appreciate every vote. Although I have been co-opted it is still a great honour to represent the place because I love the place and I want to see it thrive."

"I'm a young voice in the assembly and hopefully I will be able to speak up for everyone in the constituency."

Mrs. Erskine signed the roll of member on Monday morning accompanied by party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP. She described it as a "pinch me moment."

She added: "Family was a big consideration whether I would take on the role but I am lucky I have a very supportive family and a very supportive and understanding husband. They are all very proud."

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As an Assembly Election is scheduled for May 2022 Mrs. Erskine will have a short mandate in her role.

She spoke of her main objectives and said: "There are a lot of things I want to get stuck into, the Enniskillen Southern by-pass and I want to ensure that infrastructure projects are going ahead in our area. We see just how bad our roads are in this rural part of Northern Ireland. I want to ensure we have better connectivity in terms of better road and better broadband infrastructure. I also hope to join the Health Committee.

"I was involved in the stroke consultation and I want to ensure our stroke services are kept in Fermanagh South Tyrone and kept in our South West Acute Hospital because it is a brilliant service and I will be using my voice to speak up for the many people in our constituency who are on waiting lists and who have health problems."

Mrs. Erskine had the opportunity to ask questions on her first day on the hill. She said: "I hit the ground running when I asked the First Minister about police and police numbers as a commitment of New Decade, New Approach."

When asked if she would by eyeing up a ministerial role in the future, she replied: "That is not within my gift. For now I am just concentrating on being the best for Fermanagh South Tyrone. They are the people I bump into every day and the people I live beside and they are the people I have to be accountable for."

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Mrs. Erskine paid tribute to her predecessor Arlene Foster. She said: "Arlene was a fabulous representative for Fermanagh South Tyrone. I am fully aware that I am stepping into big shoes to fill.

"There wasn't a meeting that I wasn't in with Arlene where she did not mention Fermanagh South Tyrone, she was very proud to come from here. I had an incredible teacher and I learnt a lot from working with Arlene and I hope to carry that on and I hope to do her proud in the seat I have been given."

Speaking of Mrs Foster's role as a mentor to her, Mrs. Erskine added: "She encouraged me throughout my political life and I certainly would not be where I am today if it was not for Arlene Foster. I can't speak highly enough of Arlene and what she achieved for Fermanagh South Tyrone and for Northern Ireland as a whole."

The process has begun to find Mrs Erskine's successor for the DUP Erne North seat.

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