Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster facing dissent within DUP ranks over Stormont lockdown exit plan

Arlene Foster is facing dissent from within her own ranks. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

ARLENE Foster is facing growing disquiet from younger members in the DUP's ranks over the executive's lockdown exit strategy.

While the first minister said support among Stormont ministers for the pathway out of Covid restrictions was unanimous, she has conceded the plan would have been different if decisions were left solely to the DUP.

Hints of dissent appeared soon after Tuesday's executive announcement with Upper Bann MP Carla Lockart describing the plan as "clear as mud".

Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan yesterday also raised questions about the decision-making process that will lead to an easing of restrictions.

"If the public are going to have confidence in the analysis of this data then we need to know the exact parameters," he told Stormont's economy committee.

Mr Givan questioned why schools hadn't yet reopened based on available data.

"We are going to need this exactly laid out what the framework is that the executive are going to be basing their decisions on," he said.

DUP representatives have echoed criticisms of the Stormont plan by business organisations who claim it is too vague and complicated.

Mr Givan's party colleague Christopher Stalford told the same committee that firms needed greater clarity. He said there was a "sense that goalposts keep moving".

Mrs Foster, who defended Ms Lockhart's criticism by saying the MP was "entitled to that opinion", has faced internal dissent throughout much of the pandemic but has not sought to publicly rebuke or discipline any of the protagonists.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has been a consistent critic of Covid meaures, last week accusing health minister Robin Swann of acting like a "poodle for the unaccountable chief medical officer".

In November, the party vetoed proposals from Mr Swann to extend coronavirus restrictions.

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