Belfast Telegraph

So who are the lemmings, Mr Robinson? First Minister rounds on critics but refuses to name them

By Adrian Rutherford

Peter Robinson has rounded on his critics within the DUP – branding them "people with the strategic vision of a lemming".

The First Minister came out fighting against what he said were individuals "puffed up by their own importance" – but he declined to name who he was referring to.

It came a day after outgoing Health Minister Edwin Poots claimed on live radio that his party leader would be stepping down within months – a claim swiftly denied by Mr Robinson.

Yesterday Mr Poots wrote on Twitter: "Northern Ireland needs strong leadership, not internal strife in its largest party. DUP leader has clear mandate."

Earlier Mr Robinson said the party would deal with those who did not back his leadership.

However, he refused to spell out exactly who his "lemming" jibe was aimed at.

"I have made the comment and unlike some others, I haven't tried to personalise it to any individual –let people put the cap on and see if it fits them," he said.

Some have interpreted the First Minister's remarks as an indication of the sense of growing chaos within the DUP.

On Monday Mr Robinson axed Mr Poots and Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland in a surprise reshuffle.

The next morning, Mr Poots said he believed it was "public knowledge" that Mr Robinson would quit "within months".

Within an hour Mr Robinson issued a statement in which he said he had no plans to stand down, adding that when he did, he would be the one to make the announcement.

The bizarre episode added to rumours of a rift within the DUP.

Yesterday Mr Robinson said the DUP had "always prided itself on being a family party".

However, he added: "Even in the Democratic Unionist Party, it's clear there are some people who are so puffed up by their own importance, people who have the strategic vision of a lemming, and we have to deal with those people.

"They won't take us off course. It is very clear where the party's direction is, and the party has choices to make – it can follow people down a road to destruction, division within the party and the consequences that would be paid for that, or they can move ahead and do what we said in our election commitments of taking Northern Ireland forward.

"That's a clear choice, but I can't stop people from making comments. All I can do is continue to raise issues with the party officers, they have indicated their support for the strategy I have outlined, and let's see what the people have to say."

In what appeared an orchestrated move from party HQ, senior DUP members took to Twitter yesterday to pledge their support for Mr Robinson.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: "It should go without saying, Peter has my full support in leading us into the upcoming elections." Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said: "Peter Robinson is absolutely the right person to lead the DUP, unionism and Northern Ireland.."

Junior Minister Jonathan Bell posted: "I'm fully backing Peter Robinson – difficult times need big leadership."

Paul Givan, removed from his post as chair of the Assembly's justice committee, wrote: "Our unity is our strength @DUPleader has a mandate to lead our party & country".

However, TUV leader Jim Allister responded: "Finding great amusement from the orchestrated tweets of undying loyalty to 'Our Dear Leader'. Is failing to tweet a disciplinary offence?"

Tweets of support from DUP

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds: “It should go without saying: Peter has my full support leading us into elections.”

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson: “Northern Ireland needs strong leadership not internal strife in its largest party.”

East Belfast MLA Robin Newton: “I support Peter as DUP leader and his strategic vision to take Northern Ireland forward.”

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton: “Peter is the right person to lead the DUP, unionism and Northern Ireland.”

East Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas: I support @DUPleader.”

Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale: “Peter Robinson has my support to keep Northern Ireland moving forward.”

DUP chair Lord Morrow: “I fully support Peter's leadership and his plans to lead us into elections.”

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster: “I support Peter to lead us. He has my full support as he leads the DUP and country.”

Strangford MLA Jonathan Bell: “I'm fully backing Peter Robinson — difficult times need big leadership.”

Mid-Ulster MLA Ian McCrea: “I support Peter Robinson as leader of the DUP.”

Upper Bann MP David Simpson: “I fully support Peter in his plans to lead.”

South Antrim MLA Pam Cameron: “I'm 100% behind Peter Robinson.”

North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland: “Peter Robinson has the strategic vision to lead NI, and to lead the DUP.”

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey: “Peter's got my full support as leader.

East Belfast MLA Jimmy Spratt: “Peter Robinson is the only person to lead the party and NI.”

East Antrim MLA Alastair Ross: He “has my support in keeping NI moving forward.”

South Antrim MLA Paul Girvan: “I support Peter as leader of DUP.”

  • Lemmings are small rodents which, according to popular belief, come together in large groups to jump off a cliff ... although this is largely a misconception
  • Lemmings are similar to other rodents but they differ in their bright colours and their aggressiveness toward predators

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