DUP colleagues clash over new cigarette legislation
The DUP's Ian Paisley has said his party colleague Jim Wells should apologise over his approval of plain tobacco packaging - which the North Antrim MP claims has cost almost 1,000 jobs in Ballymena.
Legislation came into force yesterday, replacing brightly-coloured branding on tobacco packs with standardised or plain packaging. Boxes of 10 cigarettes have also been banned.
Government hopes the new packaging - which will also feature health warnings - will deter people from starting to smoke and encourage others to kick the habit. After the introduction of similar laws in Australia, there was a 15% reduction in the number of people smoking.
But in an astonishing online row, senior DUP members Jim Wells and Ian Paisley clashed over the new law.
Mr Wells took to Twitter to welcome the introduction of the law, which he approved during his time as Health Minster. Mr Paisley hit back, saying 980 people in his North Antrim constituency had lost their jobs due to the measure, referring to the closure of JTI Gallaher.
"Daft policy that will not save one life," Mr Paisley tweeted.
He also called on Mr Wells to apologise over his comments.
Speaking on the BBC Nolan Show on Radio Ulster, Mr Paisley said his first responsibility was to his constituency despite his "close personal friendship" with the South Down MLA.
He said Mr Wells' tweet was "ill-timed".
"The very morning 500 people walked out of the factory for the last time - not the day to do it," he said.