The DUP has been accused of “double-speak” after three of the party’s MPs voted against government Covid-19 regulations in Westminster.
Paul Girvan, Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson all voted against the new measures, which included the requirement to wear face coverings indoors in England and aimed at helping to combat the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The Ulster Unionist Party called on Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to “take control of his party” as they also criticised a social media post by Mr Wilson as “distasteful”.
Ahead of the vote on Tuesday the East Antrim MP posted a tweet confirming he would be voting against the measures.
Mr Wilson wrote: “Ding dong merrily on high will be replaced this Christmas by ping-dong miserably we sigh.
“I will vote against new restrictions in Parliament today.
“They are not proportionate to deal with the spread of the mild omicron variant.”
Full scientific studies regarding the severity of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 have not yet been conducted, with UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirming more is expected to be known in around three weeks.
The requirement to wear face coverings in certain indoor settings remains a legal requirement in Northern Ireland, with First Minister Paul Givan previously explaining the measure would be retained as part of Stormont’s winter contingency plan for the virus.
The UUP branded the votes of the DUP MPs in Westminster as “double-speak”.
Ding dong merrily on high will be replaced this Christmas by ping-dong miserably we sigh.— Sammy Wilson MP (@eastantrimmp) November 30, 2021
I will vote against new restrictions in Parliament today.
They are not proportionate to deal with the spread of the mild omicron variant.
“On one hand First Minister Paul Givan indicates that mask wearing is here to stay throughout this autumn and winter yet his colleagues Sammy Wilson, Ian Paisley and Paul Girvan voted against the wearing of face coverings in Parliament on Tuesday,” said Alan Chambers.
“It is extremely distasteful that Sammy Wilson even made a crude attempt at a joke on twitter while stating that the measures being introduced in Parliament ‘are not proportionate to deal with the spread of the mild omicron variant’.”
The MLA added: “Since when did Sammy Wilson become an expert on Covid-19?”
“If the DUP can’t even agree a coherent position on following the basics such as mask wearing, they will continue to undermine public health messaging.
“The question for Paul Givan and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is who is leading who? Are they so beholden to Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley that they are afraid to act?
“It’s time for Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to take control of his party and put an end to these outbursts from Sammy Wilson and colleagues. This isn`t a game and the words and actions of politicians like Sammy Wilson have consequences.”
The Prime Minister also faced a backbench backlash from some in his own party, as the House of Commons considered that travellers returning to the UK must take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
The division lists showed 32 Tories rebelled to oppose the self-isolation regulations while 19 opposed the face-covering measures, although both were approved by majorities of 395 and 411 respectively.
Conservative MPs Philip Hollobone (Kettering) and Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) acted as the tellers for the noes on both votes.
Former minister Sir Christopher Chope labelled the regulations "oppressive, authoritarian and dictatorial" as he warned it would have an "adverse effect" on lives and livelihoods.
Defending the regulations, health minister Maggie Throup told MPs: “We have set out proportionate and balanced measures which do not include limiting socialising. It is the Government that sets policy and guidance which is what the public should follow. The virus is fighting back and we must respond.”
The DUP has been contacted for a response.