Sinn Fein triggered an assembly election to “see unionism weakened,” Sammy Wilson has said.
The DUP MP was commenting after Michelle O’Neill said DUP leader Arlene Foster should be ruled out as a possible first minister in a future executive, pending the outcome of Judge Coghlin’s inquiry into the botched RHI scheme.
Mrs O’Neill, who last week was named Sinn Fein’s new leader in Northern Ireland, said: “Any right minded person shouldn’t put themselves forward for a position in an executive which is obviously subject to an investigation.”
Speaking to the BBC Inside Politics programme yesterday, Mrs O’Neill added: “Arlene Foster was the architect of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.”
Mr Wilson described Mrs O’Neill’s assertion as an “outrageous attempt” by Sinn Fein to “dictate to unionists in general and the DUP in particular” who will lead the party.
“This is all the more nonsensical coming from Sinn Fein given they claim to want to avoid direct rule and who have left the people of Northern Ireland without a budget,” he said.
“It is becoming clear that Sinn Fein want the unionist community to elect a leader that is much more in the mould of the previous roll-over unionism from a past era.
“Arlene Foster has been an effective leader for unionism and that is the only reason why Sinn Fein are keen to suggest Mrs Foster should not be seeking ministerial office.”
Mr Wilson added: “Our message to Michelle O’Neill is clear – Arlene Foster is our leader and the Sinn Fein desire to get rid of her will not succeed.
“Throughout Northern Ireland people are seeing the real reason why Sinn Fein called the election and that Sinn Fein want to see unionism weakened.”
Mrs O’Neill’s predecessor Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister last month because the DUP leader refused to stand aside while an interim investigation was conducted.
It is thought the inquiry could take around six months to complete.