A claim by Arlene Foster that she has been the victim of “misogynistic” attacks has been dismissed by her political opponents.
The First Minister had made her remarks as part of a substantial RHI-related interview in the Belfast Telegraph, during which she spoke about her family life and the effect which “horrific” internet-based comments about her may have upon her children.
She was quoted as saying in the interview, printed on Wednesday: “Northern Ireland politics are quite misogynistic and some of the commentary on this issue has been quite misogynistic.
“No political leader will go through life without someone attacking them, but this criticism has been quite vicious.”
Her remarks were described variously as “nonsense” by Sinn Fein, an effort at “deflection” by the UUP, and as “a terrible attempt to detract from her central role in the RHI fiasco” by the Green Party.
A statement from Lagan Valley UUP MLA Jenny Palmer said: “It’s no surprise that the DUP are clearly desperate to deflect from the biggest financial scandal in Northern Ireland’s history...
“This is just the latest ham fisted attempt by the First Minister to reshape the debate and pivot away from the valid questions being asked of her.”
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, MLA for Mid Ulster, said: “This is not a gender issue nor is it an Orange and Green issue. This is about a financial scandal, which has the potential to cost the public purse hundreds of millions of pounds.”
Alliance leader and East Belfast MLA Naomi Long said “her male predecessor was also held to account in the same way in a previous scandal of much lesser financial importance”.
Meanwhile Green South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey (a self-described feminist) said she does not hate Mrs Foster “as a women or indeed as a person”, but does hate her “attempts to avoid any responsibility for a scheme she presided over and promoted”.