Northern Ireland

‘No surprise some men within DUP have issues with strong women’ - Alliance blasts comments about Naomi Long

One senior DUP party member labelled Mrs Long “hard to listen to”

Naomi Long arriving at the Clayton Hotel in Belfast to evidence to the UK Covid-19 inquiry hearing
Naomi Long arriving at the Clayton Hotel in Belfast to evidence to the UK Covid-19 inquiry hearing (Liam McBurney/PA)

Alliance has said that disparaging comments made by DUP ministers about party leader Naomi Long are unsurprising.

The comments were made in messages exchanged between DUP ministers that were published as part of the ongoing Covid inquiry.

In the published messages, which appear to have been sent in a WhatsApp group, the former DUP Education Minister Peter Weir says that Mrs Long was “hard to listen to”.

The exchanges also include messages from someone whose name is redacted. Responding to the remark by Mr Weir they said: “You say that as if that is news.”

Then Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots added: “Hogging things as she continues to promote paralysis that has little public support, incremental relaxation based on public safety needs to happen and soon.”

The exchange is contained in a document entitled Extract of Edwin Poots’ WhatsApp messages with Philip Weir, Emma Little-Pengelly and other members of the Executive, dated between 09/06/2020 and 11/06/2020″.

However, the WhatsApp messages quoted are dated May 7 2020.

The east Belfast MLA became the justice minister when powersharing was restored in January 2020, just as concerns were growing about the spread of Covid. The first case was detected in Northern Ireland in February 2020.

Responding to the comments a spokesperson for Alliance said: “It will unfortunately be of no surprise to anyone that some men within the DUP have issues with women, particularly women with strong opinions.”

Speaking at Thursday’s sitting of the inquiry, Mrs Long said that she and the sole SDLP minister in the Executive at the time, Nichola Mallon, were often excluded from discussions about Covid measures.

Counsel to the inquiry Nick Scott asked if civil servants had tried to find consensus with the five parties which made up the Executive.

Mrs Long said: “They did not do so with the five parties that made up the Executive, they did so with the first and deputy first ministers’ parties and with the health minister to the exclusion of two of the parties who were in the Executive.

“I believe that was detrimental.”

She added: “To some degree, we were disadvantaged.

“At a very practical level not being able to seek detailed advice from my officials made it very difficult for us to provide responses in a timely fashion.

“It was also very isolating because we were taking decisions which would have a huge impact on people’s lives and yet we’re not part of the wider conversation.

“We’re expected to, in many cases, rubber-stamp negotiations that others had had but then take full responsibility for those decisions we didn’t have a hand in forming.”