Peter Robinson denies recent critical remarks were aimed at Arlene Foster

Peter Robinson said lobby groups took a narrow approach to the Brexit deal

FORMER DUP leader Peter Robinson has claimed recent remarks warning of the dangers being led by " the most vociferous voices in your party" were not an attack on his successor Arlene Foster.

Mr Robinson said a "group within the media" interpreted the comments as criticism but that it was "not an attack on the (DUP) leadership".

"It is an obsession with some people in the press who want to get at Arlene," he said.

"If I followed that I would be silent simply for the sake of being silent."

Mr Robinson was speaking to the BBC from the United States where he is attending a conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

He said his reference to the “most vociferous voices” applied to "people in every party".

The former first minister defended DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson's description of business bodies and the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) as "puppets of the NIO (Northern Ireland Office)", due to their support for the UK-EU withdrawal agreement.

"There goes Sammy," he said, before describing the East Antrim MP as "probably one of the best commodities any political party could have".

"He is very passionate on the Brexit issue and says it as he sees it," Mr Robinson said.

However, the former DUP leader said business bodies and farming groups who supported the withdrawal deal were "not puppets" but were representing their members.

He said Mr Mr Wilson's remarks had not damaged the DUP brand and that it was not the first time the party had been "out of kilter with business leaders or other sections of our support".

Mr Robinson said lobby groups took a narrow approach to the Brexit deal, whereas the DUP adopted a long-term approach.

He said the DUP's confidence and supply deal with the Tories was going through a "very bumpy patch" because of Theresa May's support for the withdrawal agreement and that it had a "shelf life".

The former first minister said Sinn Féin had collapsed the devolved institutions last year because republicans were "looking very much to the south and the Dáil elections".

"I think they felt hampered by the fact that they were in government in one place and opposition in another, so there were a number difficulties," he said, adding that he believed both Sinn Féin and the DUP wanted to "get back into the assembly".

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