Northern Ireland news

DUP's Edwin Poots no stranger to controversy

Agriculture minister Edwin Poots
Connla Young

EDWIN Poots is no stranger to controversy.

One of the DUP's most experienced politicians, the former Lisburn councillor has been in charge of four Stormont departments over the years - culture, environment, health and his current portfolio, agriculture.

The 55-year-old farmer has frequently been outspoken.

During one-well publicised encounter as a fresh-faced unionist, Mr Poots challenged a prominent loyalist during a DUP meeting in Lisburn arranged to discuss the Good Friday Agreement, as former first ministers Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson looked on.

In front of a packed venue, Mr Poots rounded on Gary McMichael of the Ulster Democratic Party, once the political wing of the UDA, grabbing a microphone and saying “Come on big fella, come on” before gesturing in his direction to approach him.

In 2012, while serving as health minister, the DUP man fired shots from his legally-held shotgun from an upstairs bedroom after being alerted to intruders on his property.

At the time a party spokesman said the shots were fired “from within his house to alert the intruders that their presence was known”.

A Free Presbyterian, Mr Poots rejects the theory of evolution, stating while culture minister in 2007 that he believed the earth is only several thousand years old.

“My view on the earth is that it's a young earth. My view is 4000 BC,” the father-of-four said.

During an interview he added: “And you're telling me that all of this evolution took place over billions of years, and yet it's only in the last few thousand years that man could actually learn to write?”

Steeped in traditional Paisleyite politics, Mr Poots's father Charlie was a close associate of the former first minister and a founding member of the DUP.

He died earlier this year aged 90 at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown.

Charlie Poots was also outspoken, stating at the height of the Troubles in 1975 that he would cut off vital services to Catholic areas if he was in charge.

“I would cut off all supplies, including water and electricity, to Catholic areas. And I would stop Catholics from getting social security.

“It is the only way to deal with enemies of the state and to stamp out the present troubles.”

Mr Poots, a long-serving Lisburn councillor, was targeted in an INLA gun attack the following year but was uninjured.

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