A prominent DUP member who broke ranks to criticise Arlene Foster over her handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive fiasco has been accused of “going along with the mob”.
Writing in Thursday’s News Letter, former North Antrim MLA David McIlveen said Mrs Foster was personally responsible for the RHI “omnishambles” and claimed there was growing alarm within the party over her actions.
But DUP MP Sammy Wilson has leapt to Mrs Foster’s defence and insisted that the party is “rallying behind” their leader.
Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, the former finance minister said: “He (Mr McIlveen) is totally wrong. He hasn’t produced any evidence for what he has said and I believe he has a motive for doing it.
“I find it difficult to understand someone who owes a lot to the party and then when the chips are down he feels he has to go along with the mob rather than stand by those who have been his friends.”
When asked if he felt Mr McIlveen should be disciplined, Mr Wilson said: “That is an issue for the party officers to address.
“He expressed a personal point of view and I think he was wrong in doing that. He has added to the media frenzy.”
Mr Wilson added that the First Minister enjoyed his “full confidence” and he felt she has handled the situation “magnificently”.
The East Antrim MP, who has been a member of the DUP for over 40 years, rejected Mr McIlveen’s assertion that Mrs Foster was now viewed as an “electoral liability” by some within the party.
He added: “I haven’t heard that. What I have heard is a lot of sympathy for someone who they believe has been treated unfairly.”