A champagne reception hosted by the DUP has been praised by party leader Arlene Foster as “good PR”.
A few eyebrows were raised when news of the drinks event – held on the fringes of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday – was announced.
Under the stewardship of the late Ian Paisley, the party had a strictly tee-total reputation – with Dr Paisley famously referring to alcoholic drinks as “the devil’s buttermilk”.
The lunchtime reception was held at an art gallery in the city’s International Conference Centre.
A number of senior Tories joined DUP MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Gavin Robinson, Ian Paisley and Nigel Dodds for the networking meeting.
Mrs Foster told the BBC the event was not originally meant to be billed as a champagne reception, and that something had got “lost in translation” when it was being booked.
On Tuesday night a party spokesman told the News Letter: “It was a very successful event which followed a productive meeting with the prime minister.
“We are a party of the Union and want to strengthen the ties that bind all constituent parts of the UK together.”
There were reports of queues forming to get into the gallery due to the popularity of the event.
Speaking afterwards, a party source said the DUP has hosted other events where alcohol has been served, with the first taking place around ten years ago.
A drinks reception has also been a part of the party’s annual conference for the last two or three years.