Dame Arlene Foster said she hoped her status as the first woman to become Northern Ireland’s First Minister would inspire other women to get involved in public life.
The politician’s comments came after she was appointed Dame Commander for political and public service by the Princess Royal during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.
The ex-leader of the Democratic Unionist Party said the event came on a “poignant” day as it was the 35th anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing and his thoughts were with the families of the victims.
She also confirmed reports that she is set to become a peer, saying: “Well, I’m actually coming to the House of Lords later this month, so I’m looking forward to it. be.”
Speaking after the ceremony, she said: “Like everything in politics, you don’t realize it at the time, but when I left as Prime Minister I got a lot of messages and correspondence from young women, not just from Northern Ireland across the UK, how important it was to have a female Prime Minister, and they hadn’t really thought about it until I be there anymore.
“I think it’s good to have role models and I hope I have encouraged other women to get involved in public life and if I have done that that in itself is an achievement.”
Dame Arlene’s honor comes more than a year after she was forced to resign as leader of the DUP and prime minister after an internal party revolt.
The former solicitor from Rosslea in County Fermanagh survived two horrific childhood experiences of IRA violence. She spent her early political career with the Ulster Unionist Party before defecting to the DUP in protest at the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the leadership of then UUP leader David Trimble .
Lady Arlene still lives in Co Fermanagh with her husband and three children.
Speaking of the infamous IRA Remembrance Sunday attack in Enniskillen on November 8, 1987 – which killed 11 people – she added: “I think at times like this you stop and think about your career.
“And today is a poignant day because it’s the 35th anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing and I thought a lot about the families of the victims today, because normally I would have been in Enniskillen with the families.”
Since leaving politics she has taken on several new challenges, including a role as a TV presenter on GB News and said of the position, “I am enjoying my new career.”