The DUP MP Sammy Wilson has defended his “Dr Doom” tweet directed towards Health Minister Robin Swann, as he urges the minister to “lift some of the gloom” around Covid-19.
The East Antrim politician stood by the post he made on Twitter on Monday, in which he wrote: “Dr Doom, Robin Swann must give our people the same reassurance that their freedoms & liberties will be restored.”
Speaking to the BBC’s Evening Extra programme on Tuesday, Mr Wilson said he was only repeating language the Prime Minister Boris Johnson had made and said he compared the approach of the PM to Robin Swann, who he said had come up with a “litany of reasons” why restrictions couldn’t be lifted in Northern Ireland.
The DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told reporters in Westminster Robin Swann has his “full support”. When asked if he was undermining Mr Donaldson’s authority with his Twitter comment, Sammy Wilson rejected the claim.
“Don't try to make a story out of someone that isn’t a story. Of course I support the work the health service has done through the pandemic,” Sammy Wilson told the BBC.
“I am simply saying, that as the Prime Minister was saying yesterday, if now is not the time to start lifting restrictions when will be the right time?
“I think more has been made of the terms which I used, rather than the policy I was trying to push him [Robin Swann] towards.
“I was actually only repeating what the Prime Minister said yesterday about those who were trying to pour cold water on lifting the restrictions that he has done in England, where has called them doom mongers.
“I was simply saying that because Robin Swann had come off with a litany of reasons why he couldn’t lift restrictions in Northern Ireland, I was drawing the parallel with what the Prime Minister was saying.
“Instead of someone who was looking forward to giving a bright future, trying to lift some of the gloom, they seem to be languishing in the kind of doom-laden talk we have had the last year and a half.”
On Monday Boris Johnson said that he is confident the majority of the remaining Covid restrictions in England can be lifted from July 19.
This will include making face masks voluntary and ending social distancing.
When asked about Mr Wilson’s comments towards Robin Swann, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “The Department of Health have faced many challenges during this pandemic and I want to commend all of our healthcare workers in Northern Ireland.
“I want to commend Robin Swann. I think he has done a good job in very difficult circumstances. I think most people will conclude that Robin Swann has tried his best and he has my support.”
The Department of Health and Ulster Unionist Party has been contacted.