Political news

Sammy Wilson says Peter Robinson is 'just plain wrong' on border poll

 Sammy Wilson has hit back at his former leader over a potential border poll

AN apparent rift between two former DUP colleagues over a potential border poll has appeared to have deepened.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson today hit back at former party leader Peter Robinson's claims that his unionist critics are guilty of "crass folly" for failing to make preparations for a possible poll.

The ex-First Minister wrote in an article for the Belfast Telegraph that his detractors "have not just buried their heads in the sand - only the soles of their feet are visible above the surface".

Hitting back at Mr Robinson's latest comments, Mr Wilson said while his former leader remains a "formidable advocate for the union" his "current analysis of what unionists should be doing is just plain wrong".

In a lengthy statement, Mr Wilson denied he was burying his head in the sand or even "digging a defensive foxhole" but "planning to take the fight to the enemy which is what unionists expect from their leaders".

"It is not enough to say that a referendum is coming, so prepare the terms in case we lose," he said.

"Churchill knew that the Nazis were coming after Britain when they defeated France in 1940 but he didn't prepare terms for the event of a successful invasion, he rallied the people by telling them to prepare to fight on the beaches and in laneways and in the street and to never surrender.

"That's a far better strategy and that is what I am hearing from unionists who I speak to and who are alarmed at the talk of an inevitable referendum and the possibility of losing it."

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Ian Knox cartoon 3/8/18: Sensible messages from elder statesmen in summer schools are matched by self destructive nonsense from present party incumbents
Mr Wilson said Mr Robinson had in the past led the fight for the union "against what seemed impossible odds".

And he said he was not surprised Mr Robinson had disagreed with fellow unionists on how best to deal with a border poll.

"In fact, I would have been disappointed if he hadn't because it would have illustrated a surprising loss of the fight he brings to everything he puts his hand to," he said.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

In his Belfast Telegraph article, Mr Robinson claimed unionists who failed to consider the possibility of a united Ireland or a border poll were inviting "disaster".

"Pulling a paper bag over our heads and thinking that we can, thereby, close out the impending danger is crazy," he wrote.

Last week, the former leader sparked a row after he told the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, that he didn't believe Northern Ireland wanted to leave the UK - but that there was no reason it shouldn't prepare for the possibility.

Former First Minister and ex-DUP leader Peter Robinson speaking at Queen's university in June

Mr Wilson described the controversial comments as "demoralising" and said they were akin to "inviting arsonists in to burn your house".

Former Ulster Unionist party leader Lord Empey accused Mr Robinson of becoming a "Sinn Féin echo chamber", while the ex-DUP leader's comments were also criticised by TUV leader Jim Allister.

Ian Knox cartoon 31/7/18: Peter Robinson as the voice of moderation

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