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DUP slam UUP leader's comments about First Minister as 'misleading' 'dirty and deceitful'

It comes after the UUP leader hit back at Peter Robinson branding their Executive exit 'irresponsible and illogical'

By Claire Williamson

Published 31/08/2015

Peter Robinson (left) Mike Nesbitt (right)
Peter Robinson (left) Mike Nesbitt (right)

The DUP have slammed comments made by the Ulster Unionist Party leader about the First Minister as "misleading", "dirty and deceitful".

It comes as UUP leader Mike Nesbitt publicly hit back at Peter Robinson who branded their recent exit from the Executive "irresponsible and illogical".

Writing exclusively in the Belfast Telegraph Mr Robinson called the party's recent exit a decision of "political expediency".

Mr Robinson wrote: "One would have more respect for the decision if there were even a degree of honesty about the motivation behind it.

"Exiting the field of play is not a tactically clever first option. It can only ever be a last resort. Punishing your own community for the wrongs of others and rendering yourself irrelevant is hardly a brave, bold or sound strategy.

"Having fled dramatically, the Ulster Unionist Party has taken the pressure off republicans. Now they have marginalised themselves what do they do for an encore?"

He added: "Playing party politics in these highly dangerous circumstances is irresponsible. Doing it in a ham-fisted manner is both irresponsible and illogical."

The UUP's exit was sparked after the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said the PIRA still exists.

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Stormont crisis: This is not the time to flee the battlefield, says Peter Robinson  

Hitting back at Mr Robinson's comments - the UUP leader said: "It is extraordinary that it has taken until the last day of August for Peter Robinson to comment on the latest IRA murder. It is equally remarkable that he cannot agree with me that enough is enough and take a principled stand.

“But above all, it is incredible that he chooses the language of the battlefield to defend his stance. Does he think the people of Northern Ireland have such short memories that they do not recall that when the DUP flip-flopped on their “Never, Never, Never, Never” stance regarding sharing power with Sinn Féin, they promised “a battle a day.”

“The problem for Peter Robinson is that there is no battlefield under his command.

“The Ulster Unionist Party will put country ahead of selfish party interests and Do what’s right for Northern Ireland. We will not be deflected by ill-thought out soundbites from the Leader of the DUP.”

However, now the DUP have lambasted the UUP leader's comments calling them "misleading", "dirty and deceitful".

A DUP spokesman said: "Mike Nesbitt is entitled to his own opinions but he is not entitled to his own facts. 

"Firstly, Mike made an ill-considered decision to leave the Executive which his party spokespersons have struggled to defend and now he has resorted to issuing false claims about the First Minister.  Such misleading comments are downright dirty and deceitful.

"It speaks volumes about the depth of Mike’s argument when he resorts to making personal and petty remarks about the First Minister.  He should focus on punishing republicans rather than trying to damage people’s character.

"In addition Mike should apologise publicly for his deliberately false statement that the First Minister had left it until the last day of August to make a comment about an IRA murder.

"The First Minister carried out interviews with BBC, UTV and the press immediately after the murder, and a week later issued a further public statement on the subject.  Mr Nesbitt demonstrates a high level of desperation when he resorts to telling lies that can so easily be disproved.”"

The crisis was further ignited when the Chief Constable said some members were involved in the murder of 53-year-old father-of-nine Kevin McGuigan who was shot dead in the Short Strand earlier this month, in co-operation with a group calling itself Action Against Drugs.

Mr Hamilton has, however, said the PIRA is not engaged in terrorism - instead pursuing peaceful, political republicanism - and that there is no evidence the McGuigan killing was sanctioned by the IRA leadership.

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