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DUP's Edwin Poots mourns death of politician father at the age of 90


Charles Poots

Charles Poots

Charles Poots

Charles Boucher Poots, who has died at the age of 90, was one of the dwindling band of politicians who helped form the DUP. His son Edwin is the current Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in the Executive.

Born in 1929, Mr Poots, known familiarly as Charlie, was a farmer who did not enter politics until the age of 40 when he joined the Protestant Unionist Party set up by the Rev Ian Paisley and leading lawyer Desmond Boal.

That party was later to morph into the DUP.

Mr Poots' first electoral foray in the 1969 general election - at a time of high tension in the province - was unsuccessful, but he went on to forge a lengthy career in local politics.

In 1973 he won a seat on Lisburn Borough Council and in North Down in the Assembly election. He held the latter seat in 1975 in the NI Constitutional Convention poll, but lost it in the Assembly elections seven years later. He held his Lisburn Borough Council seat until 1997, becoming deputy mayor in 1991-92 and later being made a Freeman of the Borough.

Domestically, life was not easy for Mr Poots. He and his wife Ethel were not long married when she was knocked over by a cow and was found to be suffering from oesophageal varices, and later was discovered to have cirrhosis of the liver, even though she had never touched alcohol.

Shortly after the birth of Edwin his mother almost died and was taken to London for treatment.

Charles accompanied her and described the time as the loneliest days of his life.

The couple also had two daughters and another son who died at the age of 53 (he had been left with severe learning difficulties after a bad reaction to injections), and Mrs Poots' health was often very compromised before her death in 1996 at the age of 64.

Mr Poots hit the headlines in no less an organ than The New York Times in 1973 when pro-power-sharing unionists led by former Prime Minister Brian Faulkner and hardline opponents led by the Rev Ian Paisley and William Craig clashed in the Stormont chamber.

Fisticuffs broke out after it was claimed that Mr Poots punched Basil McIvor (both had been educated at Methody in Belfast) and then several other confrontations took place. Former Chindit, firebrand Shankill Road representative John McQuade, was seen wading along a back row of the chamber throwing punches at opponents.

The session had to be adjourned and speaker Nat Minford called in the police, but no further action was taken.

Mr Poots was the target of a much more serious attack when an INLA gunman opened fire on him when he was driving through the nationalist Markets area of Belfast.

His son Edwin later told this newspaper that he was so angered by the attack on his father than he seriously considered joining a paramilitary organisation, but was talked out of it by the Rev Ian Paisley. Edwin said his father told him over the years that bitterness should not be indulged in and that it wasn't Catholics who shot at him, but a terrorist.

Mr Poots suffered a stroke in 1993 and died in the Ulster Hospital after suffering a fall at his home recently. Edwin last week spoke of the pain endured by the family, who were unable to visit their father in hospital because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Poots is survived by Edwin and daughters Angela and Joy. His grandson Caleb McCready was elected to Lisburn Council last year.

Belfast Telegraph