Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster dismisses claims of a split with Sammy Wilson

Arlene Foster said the suggestion of a split in the party was "a nonsense". Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

ARLENE Foster has described as "a nonsense" the suggestion that she and DUP colleague Sammy Wilson are sending out different messages.

In recent weeks the East Antrim MP has made a number of statements seemingly at variance with information being conveyed by his party leader and her executive colleagues.

He claimed last week that "technocrats in the Department of Health" had sought greater restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19 but that Mrs Foster had overruled them.

The DUP leader has not confirmed the claim but insisted the executive acted on the data that was available to it at the time.

Earlier this month, just days after his leader conceded that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol had been accepted by Westminster, Mr Wilson called for the deal to be scrapped, saying the party would not accept it.

Speaking today, Mrs Foster dismissed the suggestion that the East Antrim MP was speaking from the sidelines on Brexit, and described claims of a split in the party as "a nonsense".

"Sammy doesn't speak on the sidelines on Brexit – Sammy is the Brexit spokesperson at Westminster," she said on BBC Radio Ulster.

"The messaging is not different."

The DUP leader accused the media of "looking for differences in intonation and tone" between party representatives.

"That's just the way the media views the DUP – they shouldn't view it in that way of course but there's nothing I can do in relation to that," she said.

"We live in a democratic party; I welcome that; I've always welcomed that – it's important we hear views from right across the party."

Mrs Foster added that she would continue to lead the DUP.

"I know I have the full support of my colleagues in doing so," she said.

Sammy Wilson claimed 'technocrats' in the Department of Health" had sought greater restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

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