Foster plays down claims of ‘sexist remarks’ on her elevation

DUP MLA Edwin Poots
DUP MLA Edwin Poots

First Minister Arlene Foster has played down claims that congratulations from a party colleague on her elevation to the post were sexist.

As she took Stormont’s top job on Monday, Edwin Poots MLA said her “most important job” remained “that of a wife, mother and daughter”.

His comments were slammed by feminist campaigners.

But Mrs Foster showed little interest in entering into debate on the issue, instead suggesting that questions posed to her by the media in recent days could equally fall into the same category.

Asked if she felt there was “a double expectation” on her as First Minister and mother and whether the same comments would have been made of a male First Minister, she replied: “Well you know, I think if you look at some of the media questions yesterday you could say the same of those as well, they wouldn’t be asked of a man either.

“But you know I am not really focussing on that I am focussing on the job ahead and what I need to do.

“Yes I am a mum I am a daughter, I am a wife, that is part of who I am. But I am doing a job to lead Northern Ireland now and that is really where my focus is.”

Speaking in the assembly shortly after Mrs Foster’s appointment as first minister, Mr Poots said it would be the “second most important job that she will ever take on. Her most important job has been, and will remain, that of a wife, mother and daughter.”

But feminist Adrianne Peltz said his comments had taken away from Mrs Foster’s inauguration as first minister by “basically putting in her place”.

And Suzanne Collins, of Women For Election, an Irish group that trains women for political roles, said Mr Poots’s comments were “really, really disappointing”.

But speaking on BBC Talkback, he said he made no apologies for “defending the family”.

“Whenever I was health minister, I very often stated that it was the most important political job that I had but it was the second most important job that I had,” he said.

“My most important job was that of being a father, a son and a husband. If we don’t get it right in the home, then we won’t get it right when we come in to the office either.”

But Mr Poots said he made the remarks because he knew Mrs Foster as a friend.

“Arlene told me that the main reason she didn’t put her name forward for Westminster election was because she had the opportunity of coming home every night to her family,” he said.

However commentator Newton Emerson tweeted a more positive take on Mr Poots.

“People who think they’re smarter than Edwin Poots make it doubly easy for him to prove otherwise,” he said.