Three Fermanagh residents have been awarded honours in The Queen’s Birthday Honours.

In the most high-profile nod for the county, and for Northern Ireland, former First Minister and former Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster has been made a dame, with the title of Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).

Dame Arlene was the first female to be elected as Northern Ireland First Minister, and the first female leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.

She received her DBE for her Political and Public Service, and the Royalist told this newspaper that receiving her damehood during the Platinum Jubilee makes it very special to her.

When asked if she was surprised to be made a dame, the former First Minister said: “Yes, it was a very pleasant surprise.”

Commenting on what the damehood means to her, Dame Foster said: “The award obviously comes to you personally, but I very much see it as an award for representing the people for Fermanagh and South Tyrone for 18 years, which is something I enjoyed incredibly.

“It was a great joy and a great privilege to do so. I think it’s also an award for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.”

When asked by this newspaper if she is missing politics, Dame Foster said: “I don’t miss it. When something like that happens, you have to move on and look at new opportunities, and that’s what I’ve been doing this year.”

Now a presenter for GB News, among other roles, Dame Foster is enjoying her new path. She said: “I am enjoying broadcasting, doing some speaking, and doing some writing.

“I’m very much enjoying it, and it gives me an opportunity to obviously do things around the county as well.”

Dame Foster was First Minister of Northern Ireland from January, 2016 to January, 2017, until the resignation of Martin McGuiness as Deputy First Minister.

She returned to the role of First Minister in January, 2020, which she served in until she stepped down in June, 2021.

Originally from Dernawilt Cross, Rosslea, Dame Foster served as MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone from November, 2003, and served as an Executive Minister from 2007 to 2017 and from 2020-2021.

She now lives outside Brookeborough with her husband, Brian, and three children, Sarah, George and Ben.

Other Fermanagh residents honoured as part of the 2022 Birthday Honours include Marjorie Aitken, who has been awarded a BEM for Services to Older People in Northern Ireland. Ms. Aitken is from Irvinestown, County Fermanagh.

Also receiving a BEM is Dr. Alan Cooper, lately a member of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, and who is being awarded his BEM for Services to the Environment. Dr. Cooper is a resident of Derrygonnelly.

In neighbouring Tyrone, two Fivemiletown men have been honoured for their contribution to the community.

Iain Lendrum, who serves as Chairman of the Fivemiletown Royal British Legion Club, and the Fivemiletown Coronavirus Response Group, was awarded a BEM for Services to the Community in County Tyrone during Covid-19.

Also honoured with a BEM was Robert John Robertson, for Services to St John’s Parish Church, Fivemiletown, County Tyrone.

Mr. Robertson has served his community for many years as a gravedigger.