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Poots stays tight-lipped on whether he’d accept Mass invite

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New DUP leader Edwin Poots. Niall Carson/PA Wire

New DUP leader Edwin Poots. Niall Carson/PA Wire

PA

New DUP leader Edwin Poots. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Incoming DUP leader Edwin Poots has refused to be drawn on whether he would be willing to attend Mass if invited.

Mr Poots is a member of the Orange Order which forbids members from taking part in Catholic ceremonies.

However, previous DUP leaders have in recent years steered the party away from this hardline attitude.

If he accepted an invitation from the Catholic church he would be following in the footsteps of his two predecessors.

Peter Robinson attended the funeral Mass of murdered Catholic PSNI officer Constable Ronan Kerr at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Beragh, Co Tyrone in April 2011.

It was the first time a DUP leader had attended a Catholic Mass.

It was also the first time any Taoiseach had attended the funeral of a PSNI officer.

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In March 2017, Arlene Foster was applauded as she entered Derry’s Long Tower church for the Requiem Mass of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mrs Foster later revealed she “lost friends over going” to the funeral but still believed “it was the right thing to do”.

A fundamentalist Christian, Mr Poots is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, founded in 1951 by Dr Ian Paisley 20 years before he established the DUP.

If Mr Poots reverses the policy of his immediate predecessors and declines invitations to attend Mass, it is likely to increase fears from some observers that he wants to bring the DUP back to its traditional evangelical roots.

A DUP spokesman told The Irish Catholic: “The DUP has worked with the Catholic Church on many issues from freedom of worship through to protecting the life of the unborn.”

However, when asked whether Mr Poots would accept an invitation to attend Mass, the spokesman said: “Mr Poots is heartened that people of all faiths are able to return to congregational worship and has received a number of invitations from the faith community which he will consider in due course”.

Last October, the Agriculture minister made controversial comments that levels of Covid-19 are higher in nationalist areas than unionist ones.

Mr Poots claimed the difference in virus transmission between nationalist and unionist areas was “around six to one”

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd subsequently called on the Lagan Valley MLA to apologise for his remarks, claiming Mr Poots had effectively accused nationalists of spreading the virus. He said the remarks had caused “huge offence”.

Mr Poots later denied his remarks were sectarian, saying they could not be because “most Sinn Fein leaders don’t attend the Catholic Church on a regular basis”.


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