Poots defends DUP relationship with senior loyalists
Edwin Poots has defended the DUP's relationship with senior loyalists saying that UDA boss Jackie McDonald "has sought to move that organisation away from violence".
The loyalist leader pledged support for DUP leader Arlene Foster last week in a lengthy article carried in The Loyalist magazine.
Mr Poots, a former health minister, defended the party's relationship with senior loyalists, saying he would not "shun or turn my back" on his local community.
"We (DUP) condemn paramilitary activity and that's something we want to take Northern Ireland away from," he told the BBC.
"Lets be very clear, I and many others in the DUP work closely with local communities.
"In those communities there are many people who once engaged in paramilitary activity doing community work, where that is genuine community work we're happy to do that, we're happy to move Northern Ireland forward.
"If I sit in government with Sinn Féin, as I have, who engaged in terrorist activity for the republican community, then do you not expect that I could go into a loyalist community and work with people who are in the same position only they are not elected.
"The UDA are on ceasefire, Jackie McDonald has sought to move that organisation away from violence and towards a path where people are actively engaged in making a difference for their community", Mr Poots added.