The DUP’s Nelson McCausland has said he does not regret refusing to shake the Sinn Fein finance minister’s hand during a televised election debate.
Mr McCausland claimed he had been left “angry and disappointed” by a number of comments made by Mairtin O Muilleoir during the programme and that to accept a handshake at that time would have been disingenuous.
He also accused Mr O Muilleoir of offering his hand “for show”.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long described the incident as “playground behaviour” and said it “does not inspire confidence” that the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to work together after the election.
The DUP and Sinn Fein assembly candidates were participants in a Nolan Live election debate broadcast on Wednesday.
Towards the end of the show Mr O Muilleoir attempted to shake hands with Mr McCausland, however the DUP man refused.
Mr O Muilleoir later Tweeted: “Never refuse the opponent’s open hand after a contest no matter how deep the divisions or impassioned the debate.”
However, Mr McCausland said: “Mairtin O Muilleoir is a man who does things for effect. He was doing it for show.”
He added: “It is not a question of respect. I am not averse to shaking hands with anyone. At that moment I was angry and disappointed and was reflecting on what he had said. In particular he said ‘in Sinn Fein we believe in live and let live’.
“For 30 years the IRA murdered people and many republicans eulogised in the crimes. Those people weren’t allowed to live so it was very hypocritical to say that.”
Mr McCausland continued: “I was also concerned about the finance minister’s numeracy skills.
“He said the Gay Pride parade was the biggest parade in Belfast. I think when you count participants and supporters nothing in the city of Belfast could rival the Twelfth of July.”
Ms Long said that the deterioration of the relationship between the DUP and Sinn Fein over the past few months was clear to see.
The Alliance assembly candidate added: “This sort of playground behaviour is beyond pathetic and does not inspire confidence these two parties will be able to resume a civil partnership after March 2.”