DUP places gagging order on Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Edwin Poots, banning them from discussing leadership contest publicly

The DUP has issued a gagging order to the two candidates standing to succeed Arlene Foster as leader, banning them from doing interviews.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 7:41 am
Updated Thursday, 6th May 2021, 9:15 am

The order, which was issued on Tuesday and within hours was leaked to the News Letter, prevents Edwin Poots or Sir Jeffrey Donaldson from being challenged by journalists over how they would change the DUP.

The communication emerges publicly as Mr Poots issued a manifesto for the DUP which called for radical reform – and specifically pledges to end the party’s culture of secrecy.

The ‘guidance note’ issued by the DUP press office says that the party officers had decided that “no candidate is to be fielded by the party for media appearances/interview during the period of the leadership during the period of the leadership campaign.

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“This applies to both candidates for leader and deputy leader positions.”

The note goes on: “No candidate is to unilaterally give broadcast or print interviews about their candidature.”

The DUP press office adds that “the internal press protocol remains in force at this time” – an allusion to the party’s requirement on members to get press office clearance before doing interviews, something for which some members have previously been disciplined when they have acted without press office authorisation.

The News Letter approached both Mr Poots’s and Sir Jeffrey’s camps on Tuesday to ask for an in-depth interview with each candidate. Neither responded.

The ‘guidance note’ from the DUP press office also stipulates that “other party representatives” can speak to the media “but will be advised not to enter into commentary before a preferred candidate or campaign” and “will be reminded that a contest is primarily for internal party purposes”.

The press office said that candidates could still speak in their “official” capacities in relation to their roles as MLAs, MPs, or ministers.

When asked why the candidates were banned from doing interviews, the press office said in a statement: “The party officers have taken decisions as to the processes for the election campaign, including the fact that candidates will not be fielded by the party for media opportunities during this time.

“Candidates, rather than the apparatus of the party, will continue to promote themselves to the electoral college at this time.

“All candidates who have thus far publicly indicated their intention to run have been advised of the details of these matters.”

Meanwhile, tonight Michelle O’Neill said that she felt sorry for Mrs Foster.

The deputy first minister told the Press Association that she believed misogyny played a part in the internal DUP revolt that forced Mrs Foster to resign.

Asked if she thought misogyny played a part in the heave against Mrs Foster, Ms O’Neill said: “I made that very clear in my statement last week.”

Earlier this year Ms O’Neill claimed it was misogynistic to suggest that Sinn Fein is not a normal political party and is instead still an offshoot of the IRA.

She warned that whoever succeeded Mrs Foster would have to deliver on what the outgoing DUP leader had promised on behalf of her party – including the delivery of an Irish language act.

Foster returns to north-south business

Arlene Foster today returned to north-south ministerial meetings, prompting renewed confusion about the DUP’s stance on what many in the party believed was a boycott of such business until the Irish Sea border is removed.

One of the catalysts for Mrs Foster’s removal as leader was the decision of one of her closest allies, Economy Minister Diane Dodds, to attend a north-south ministerial meeting two weeks ago, despite the widespread understanding i the party that such meetings were being boycotted. DUP ministers had not attended several previous meetings.

Last week Edwin Poots refused to attend a north-south ministerial meeting.

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The question now is would the two men competing to become DUP leader have equally pursued this operation of north/southery while east/west links are trashed by the protocol? Let’s hear them answer!”


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