Edwin Poots dismisses Peter Robinson criticism as ‘inaccurate’ but welcomes him as ‘critical friend’

DUP leader elect Edwin Poots has dismissed as “inaccurate” criticism from the party’s former leader Peter Robinson about the means he came to power - and how he is dealing with rivals since his victory.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 6:14 pm
Updated Friday, 21st May 2021, 6:24 pm
Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (left) said leader elect Edwin Poots (right) ‘will not unite unionism if he cannot unite his own party’. The two men are seen here together on the election trail in Lisburn in 2011. Photo: Presseye.com.

Writing in today’s News Letter, Mr Robinson urged Mr Poots to heal wounds after the “bloodbath” of outgoing leader Arlene Foster’s removal.

“The last few weeks have been harmful to the DUP,” Mr Robinson wrote.

The former first minister said Mr Poots “will not unite unionism if he cannot unite his own party” and that in that respect, the “failure to even reference Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in his victory speech” was a missed opportunity and “poor form”.

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He also said that the demand of Poots supporters to remove Mrs Foster before the date she had announced means that “having left her humiliated they now want to leave her as roadkill”.

But responding this afternoon in Co Tyrone, a smiling and relaxed Mr Poots dismissed Mr Robinson’s comments as “inaccurate”.

Speaking to the BBC, he said of the remarks: “They are inaccurate - but that’s by the by - and maybe a little more information would have assisted [from Mr Robinson regarding his claims].

He added: “I would welcome Peter Robinson as a critical friend and he will be someone that I will engage with going forward.”

Although Mr Poots had said he would consult the party on when Mrs Foster should leave, he said this afternoon she will choose her own leaving date and “is under no pressure from me to do otherwise”.

Reacting to Mr Robinson, Ian PaisleyMP said the public are not interested in “internal wrangling”.

He said: “I agree that anyone who believes in the union and is a DUP member or supporter are interested in only one course of action and that is moving on from the leadership contest, swinging in behind the new leader and using all of our talents to achieve our goal of supporting and securing the union for another generation and beyond.

“Frankly the unionist public are not interested in hearing about internal wrangling or personal differences. They want the biggest party in unionism and in the country to now lead us forward.”

Meanwhile, a former DUP MLA has likened the removal of Arlene Foster to a “political assassination”.

Brenda Hale, who supported Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in the leadership contest, said that voters will want “honour and integrity and honesty, and backroom chats and political assassinations are maybe not the way forward for Northern Ireland”.

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