Arlene Foster hits back at Michelle O’Neill’s ‘nonsense’ criticism of Lord Morrow riot comments

Arlene Foster has criticised Michelle O’Neill for dismissing as “nonsense” a claim by the DUP chairman that the current crisis is on a par with the Ulster Workers’ Council strike and the Anglo-Irish Agreement backlash.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 4:01 pm
Updated Monday, 12th April 2021, 7:14 pm
Arlene Foster said that Michelle O’Neill should not have criticised Lord Morrow’s comments as she did

On Saturday, the News Letter reported DUP chairman Lord Morrow as saying that the authorities had shown “total and absolute capitulation to the demands of militant republicanism”.

The DUP peer also said that the crisis was “of equal seriousness” to the action which brought down Northern Ireland’s first power-sharing government in 1974, and that which saw mass protests against the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

He said that “issues have been simmering for quite a while, and there was always going to be that one thing that pushed it over”.

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On today’s ‘Good Morning Ulster’ programme on the BBC the deputy first minister said that she had read Lord Morrow’s comments in the News Letter and “to be quite blunt about it, I thought it was a nonsense”.

Later on the same programme, the first minister criticised that comment. She said: “I fundamentally believe that responsible leadership doesn’t ignore views from the community because you may not agree with them or they may be difficult to listen to.

“I think if we could see more of that across the Executive it would be very much to be welcomed.

“I was, I have to say, a little disappointed to hear the deputy first minister dismiss the views of my party chairman as nonsense ... I don’t think that is the generosity of spirit that we need to see.”

When Lord Morrow’s comments were put to Mrs Foster, she said that over the last week she had heard many things, some of which are untrue perceptions, “but they are very, very strongly held perceptions”.

The DUP leader went on: “How do we change perceptions? We change perceptions by engaging, by listening, by saying to people ‘well, here is actually what the case is in terms of the loyalist community; here is what we are doing in terms of educational underachievement ... all of those things have to be tackled head-on; not dismissed as nonsense because you know one person’s ‘nonsense’ is another person’s absolute belief in what is happening at this moment in time and therefore I will not dismiss what people have to say as nonsense.”

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