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Foster 'squashes' rumours she is a secret Remain supporter

Published 08/06/2016

The First Minister rubbished recent claims
The First Minister rubbished recent claims

Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has insisted she is firmly behind her party's pro-Brexit stance, dismissing rumours is she a secret Remain supporter.

Stormont's First Minister said she was puzzled as to where speculation that she would privately prefer if the UK remained in the EU had come from.

Mrs Foster was appearing before her Assembly scrutiny committee alongside Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister - and Remain advocate - Martin McGuinness.

When discussions turned to the looming referendum, committee chair Mike Nesbitt asked the First Minister to comment on the rumours.

The Ulster Unionist leader said: "I am sure you are aware that there are persistent rumours that you on a personal level are actually for Remain, so would you like to take this opportunity to squash those rumours?"

Mrs Foster responded: "I will very much take that opportunity to squash.

"I think I have given a number of interviews talking about the Leave campaign and endorsing the Leave campaign. I'm not quite sure where those rumours come from."

When Mr Nesbitt suggested some of the speculation had been aired in the press, the First Minister replied: " You are not taking the media at their word, are you?"

The DUP, Traditional Unionist Voice and Ukip are backing Brexit in Northern Ireland, while Sinn Fein, the UUP, SDLP and Alliance Party are among the advocates of Remain.

In the Assembly chamber on Tuesday, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood claimed the DUP was half-hearted in its stance.

"I know the DUP are against us remaining in the EU, but they are not really that against it, because they are not making that much of a big deal of it," he said.

On Wednesday, Mr McGuinness reiterated his support for the Remain side to members of the Executive Office committee.

"The reality is that come June 23, which is only a matter of days away, we will know one way or the other the lie of the land," he said.

"We will either be in the European Union or we won't. I certainly hope we will continue to be in the European Union because I think it is better for us.

"At the same time, whatever happens on the other side of it, we as an Executive will collectively have to deal with that."

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