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Coronavirus 'not orange or green issue', says Foster but O'Neill will speak out if she disagrees with approach

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First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Pic COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER PRESS/PA Wire

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Pic COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER PRESS/PA Wire

PA

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Pic COLM LENAGHAN/PACEMAKER PRESS/PA Wire

First Minister Arlene Foster has said tackling the coronavirus pandemic is not an "orange or green issue" and the Northern Ireland Executive is united in its approach to the crisis.

The DUP leader's comments come after a disagreement with deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill on whether to close schools.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme, Mrs Foster said: "This is so much bigger than about Britishness or Irishness, unionism or nationalism, orange or green - this is not what this is about.

"This is about giving hope to people that this will end, making sure that when it does end we come out the other side.

"And it is important to have hope and it’s important to look to the future.

"But to get there we all have to work together, we all have to listen to the advice and act on the advice."

Mrs Foster also said she was hopeful chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce more support for people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic during his press conference later on Friday afternoon.

Education Minister Peter Weir announced earlier this week that schools will be closed on Monday but that children whose parents are key workers will still be able to avail of a school place if they need to.

Michelle O'Neill, also speaking on Good Morning Ulster, said there has been confusion over school closures and that she will not be afraid to speak out again if she disagreed with the Executive's approach.

"There has been a lot of information out there this week and people have been left in a tailspin around what it means as an individual," she said.

"There has been some really good decisions taken, early decisions taken. Schools needed to close, I'm glad they have closed - that is the right approach.

"I think there has been confusion overnight about the guidance that has been given out by the Education Minister (Peter Weir), and that needs to be clarified this morning."

Ms O'Neill said she has been consistent in her view that the UK Government's approach has been too slow.

"They have been too slow to act and too slow to realise the enormity of what we are dealing with. I am not going to sit quietly when I feel something is wrong," she added.

Belfast Telegraph