Belfast Telegraph

I was not attacking Arlene Foster and Sammy Wilson 'best commodity' DUP can have: Peter Robinson responds to media reports on criticism

Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson at the DUP annual conference in 2015
Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson at the DUP annual conference in 2015

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson has denied his recent remarks about the party were an attack on Arlene Foster.

The former first minister, during a recent address at the Methodist Centre in Belfast, warned "you need to be careful not to allow the most vociferous voices in your party lead you".

Addressing the comments on the BBC's The View on Thursday evening, he said: "It seems that no matter what I say, or where I say it, there is a group within the media and the press who want to say 'who is he criticising this time?'.

"Which, of course, has never been my approach.

"It's not an attack on the leadership. It is an obsession with some people in the press who want to get at Arlene. If I followed that I would be silent simply for the sake of being silent."

Mr Robinson said his criticism is aimed at those who "talk the loudest" and that he was speaking about people in "every party."

Mr Robinson also addressed recent comments by DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who described Northern Ireland business leaders who support Theresa May's Brexit deal as "government puppets".

Former First Ministers Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson

He said his reaction to the comments was: "There goes Sammy" but described the East Antrim MP as "probably one of the best commodities any political party can have".

Mr Robinson was speaking in New Haven in Connecticut in the United States before attending a conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

He added that Northern Ireland business and farming groups who support the Brexit deal are not "puppets" but were reflecting the opinion of their members, but said the disagreement had not damaged the DUP brand.

Mr Robinson described the DUP's confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives as going through a "very bumpy batch" and admitted the deal "does have a shelf life".

Mr Robinson also urged both the DUP and Sinn Fein to "get back to Stormont".

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