Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson blasts party critics as 'puffed up lemmings'

By John Mulgrew

DUP leader Peter Robinson has slammed critics within his own party as people "with the strategic vision of a lemming".

Speaking to the BBC today, Mr Robinson said those people within the party "puffed by their own importance" would not take the DUP "off course".

"I think the Democratic Unionist Party has always prided itself on being a family party. But even in the Democratic Unionist Party it's clear that there are some people hat are puffed by their own importance," he said.

"People who have the strategic vision of a lemming. We have to deal with those people and they wont take us off course."

"It is very clear where the party's direction is, and the party has choices to make.

"It can follow people down a road to destruction, division within the party and the consequences that would be paid for that, or they can move ahead and do what we said in our election commitments of taking Northern Ireland forward."

The First Minister was speaking after the former Health Minister Edwin Poots said Mr Robinson would be stepping down from his post within months.

But responding, Peter Robinson said he had "no plans to stand down".

The comments have fuelled speculation over an ever-growing rift within the DUP.

The First Minister dramatically sacked two of his most controversial Stormont ministers - including Mr Poots - in a major shake-up of the party's front-line team.

Meanwhile, a host of DUP members have taken to Twitter to voice their own backing of Peter Robinson.

It's a move which was greeted with swathes of cynicism across social media.

The DUP's Sammy Wilson also said "Peter Robinson is the leader of the DUP and will continue to be the leader of the DUP through the coming elections".

He has proven over recent years that he has got the strategic vision to guide Northern Ireland and the Executive through the difficulties which we still have to deal with."

Following his reshuffle earlier this week, Peter Robinson insisted the shake-up was about "churning around" his party ahead of next year's election and not removing Ministers who may have courted controversy.

"I stand by the ministers I have had in the past. I think they did an excellent job," he said.

"I believe these appointments will give us a good and strong team for a very difficult time."

Earlier this month First Minister Peter Robinson generated a political storm, after he said Stormont was not longer fit for purpose.

A deluge of reaction came from right across the political spectrum after Mr Robinson said the devolved institutions could not continue working in their current form.

He said Northern Ireland would be financially crippled unless the welfare reform impasse is resolved.

The deadlock and division over welfare reform has yet to be sorted.

The impasse over the introduction of welfare reforms intensified yesterday, with MLAs split down the middle.

On two knife-edge votes, MLAs rejected both a motion calling on the Executive to oppose the changes and an amendment insisting they should be implemented to avoid cuts to Northern Ireland's Block Grant.

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