Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson rejects Wells claims he was betrayed by DUP on health minister job

By Gareth Cross

Former First Minister Peter Robinson has rejected claims from DUP MLA Jim Wells that he was promised he could return to his job as Health Minister after resigning.

Mr Wells resigned in 2015 following allegations of inappropriate remarks about homosexuals which were later proved to be false.

In a hard-hitting interview in the Belfast Telegraph on Monday, Mr Wells said he believed the DUP bosses had no time for a "traditional, old-fashioned" party member like him.

Mr Wells stepped down as Heath Minister on his 58th birthday, April 27 three years ago, after a meeting with former DUP leader Robinson.

"I did so on the understanding that after the dust settled I'd return as Health Minister," said the South Down MLA, who added that Mr Robinson advised him the resignation would "let the heat die down" in the run-up to polling day.

However, former DUP stalwart Robinson told BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show "I did not make that promise, those are not the words I used. I was much more careful."

Mr Wells said he decided to resign for the good of the party.

"In fact, it was me who offered that (to resign)," he said.

"I said to Peter: 'We can't afford the risk of maybe one of our MPs losing their seat over this so I'll step aside, take the flak and when it's all sorted I want to be vindicated by returning for a brief period as Health Minister and then resign to look after my ill wife'.

"But that never happened. Three times I asked for that to be redeemed. Twice (in writing) I was ignored - and, at a meeting with party officers, I was told: 'You're not coming back'."

Speaking on the Nolan Show Mr Robinson stressed he made no promise to Mr Wells that he would get his job back.

"That's not the way I would characterise, it but I'm not going to get involved in those kind of issues and it wasn't my decision to make," he said.

"I did not make that promise, those are not the words I used. I was much more careful.

"I indicated that he was capable of coming back as a Minister and thats very different."

Mr Robinson said he felt the South Down MLA did a good job as Health Minister.

"I thought Jim was a good Minister did a tremendous job in the Department of Health, he was engrossed in it and genuinely wanted to help with the issues involved, I had no problem with him.

"I think Northern Ireland lost out by Jim having to stand down.

"There were several issues all converging at the one time, electoral politics weren't kind to us at that point."

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