Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson denies remarks were attack on DUP leader Foster

By Suzanne Breen

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson has denied that his recent remarks about the party were an attack on Arlene Foster and has accused some journalists of wanting to "get at Arlene".

However, the SDLP said the media wasn't to blame if politicians find themselves in a "difficult position".

Speaking at the Methodist Centre in Belfast last week, Mr Robinson warned "you need to be careful not to allow the most vociferous voices in your party lead you".

But in an interview with BBC Northern Ireland's The View on Thursday, he insisted his comments weren't aimed at Mrs Foster and described her speech to last weekend's DUP conference as "first-class".

He stated: "It seems 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."

The former DUP leader said his comments had been aimed at those who "talk the loudest" and he had been speaking about people in "every party".

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said: "It's disappointing to see the DUP, including Peter Robinson, continuously hitting out at the media for the difficult position they have found themselves in." But he praised Mr Robinson for stressing the need for trust in Northern Ireland politics in his BBC interview.

However, Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said: "Peter Robinson in particular needs to reflect on his own role in setting the tone for how the DUP conducted itself in government over the past 10 years and how it engaged with the business community and wider society, and how it has contributed to the current situation."

In his BBC interview, Mr Robinson addressed comments by DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who described local business leaders supporting Theresa May's Brexit deal as "Government puppets".

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". He said NI business and farming groups who support the Prime Minister's Brexit deal weren't puppets but were reflecting their members' opinion.

However, he insisted that the disagreement had not damaged the DUP brand. He described its confidence and supply agreement with the Tories as having entered a "very bumpy patch" but said it "does have a shelf life".

He said his party was right to reject the EU Withdrawal Agreement which wasn't the "only deal" possible, and urged the DUP and Sinn Fein to "get back to Stormont".

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