Arlene Foster has moved to distance herself from creationism and stressed that the Caleb Foundation “is not the DUP”.
Senior DUP figures such as Mervyn Storey, Nelson McCausland and Gregory Campbell are among influential supporters of the body which “seeks to promote the Fundamentals of the historic evangelical Protestant faith”.
In 2012, the group came to wider public prominence after it sucessfully lobbied for a creationist exhibit to be included at the National Trust’s visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway.
Speaking during a BBC Spotlight profile of her on Tuesday night, the First Minister was asked whether she is a creationist.
She replied: “You know, I have been asked this question many times and actually when I joined the party they asked was I joining the church. And that is a fundamental misunderstanding.
“We have to see the Bible in the context of the scientific developments. I take as my leader the way in which Her Majesty The Queen is a low Anglican – that is something that is very akin to the way in which I worship as well.”
When asked about the influence of the Caleb Foundation, Mrs Foster said: “That is not the DUP; the Caleb Foundation is an organisation that exists to lobby and to promote their beliefs. And they are perfectly entitled to do that.”
During the interview Mrs Foster also admitted that she has a temper.
When asked if she would need to rein in that side of her personality in the role of First Minister, Mrs Foster said: “It is funny you should say that because I have been thinking about that and when a woman has passion in her voice and feels that she wants to say something quite strong about an issue she is emotional.
“But if a man was to do a similar speech or to say something similar he would be passionate about an issue. So I think there is a difference in how women are perceived.”
Spotlight reporter Declan Lawn asked Mrs Foster whether she felt it was sexist for him to ask about her temperament.
She said: “Well it is a little but it doesn’t annoy me. I do think there is a difference in the way in which women are perceived in politics.”
‘Catholic kids cheered murder’
During the Spotlight programme, Mrs Foster was played footage of herself as a 17-year-old schoolgirl some time after the IRA bombing of her school bus.
She was interviewed, along with Madonna Murphy from a Catholic school, by Jeremy Paxman and during the interview Madonna said that they were “not enemies” but had never talked. The future First Minister said that they sat on opposite sides of the bus.
Responding to rewatching that interview decades later, Mrs Foster told Spotlight: “You have to remember on this bus, and this is another very vivid memory for me, when a UDR part-time soldier was murdered in Derrylin, a man called Jimmy Graham, I was only I think 13 or 14 at the time, and the young Catholics on the bus that day were cheering. You know, because a man had been murdered.
“And that is the sort of life we were living at that time.
“So it should be of no surprise that there was a difficulty at that time between children from different backgrounds and that stayed with me for quite a while.”