Alliance councillor backs Poots on family-politics balance

Alderman Rice
Alderman Rice

A veteran Alliance alderman who missed her grandchildren growing up due to politics has come out in support of DUP MLA Edwin Poots for his controversial remarks on politics and the family.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s Geraldine Rice said she agreed with Mr Poots after he recently congratulated Arlene Foster on her elevation to First Minister with the words that it was “the second most important job that she will ever take on”.

He added that her most important job “has been and will remain that of a wife, mother and daughter”.

His comments caused a backlash from people who accused him of being grossly sexist towards his party leader - claiming that he would not have made such a comment to a male colleague.

But Ms Rice has told the News Letter that in her own personal view, she agreed with Mr Poots.

Adding that she had “every faith” in Mrs Foster’s ability as First Minister, she said she had missed her grandchildren growing up because she was working so hard for her constituents.

“It is very reasonable what he said - what is to criticise? I think people need to take a step back.”

She added: “I know Edwin and I know he puts his family first.”

Ms Rice became a councillor in 1989 and poured years of her life into securing new housing and youth facilities in Lisburn for her constituents.

However, she now feels that she should have put her family first.

“I think that really and truly I did not always put my family first - I mean my grandchildren - and now they are all gone to university. They grow up so fast.”

She has four grandchildren – three at university and one studying A-Levels, whom she sees every week.

Mr Poots’ son Luke - a DUP councillor - believes the key factor in starting the media debate about his father’s remarks was a tweet by an Alliance employee in Anna Lo’s office, Kate Nichol.

On January 11 she tweeted: “Eugh. #niassemblysexism” with an attachment quoting Mr Poots’ comments to his party leader.

It was retweeted 182 times and favourited 92 times.

Luke Poots said: “I was amused by the Alliance Party kick-starting this argument off and the pettiness of it.

“Family life is important and family values mean a lot to people in Northern Ireland.

“If Alliance did this to petty point score or indeed in some way to harm family values it is simply just wrong.”

The Alliance Party was invited to respond to his claims but said it would not be offering any comment.