Northern Ireland news

Frequently outspoken Edwin Poots is no stranger to controversy

Edwin Poots has been frequently outspoken

ONE of the DUP's most experienced politicians, Edwin Poots has been frequently been outspoken and is no stranger to controversy.

The executive minister refused to apologise last year for `Catholic coronavirus' comments, saying bad behaviour spread the virus.

This sparked a storm of criticism from other parties, with Sinn Féin labelling his language "sectarian claptrap".

But the Lagan Valley representative was unapologetic.

He said "a lot of the problems started after the Bobby Storey funeral...and people in that community saw the breaking of the rules".

Mr Poots further claimed his remarks were not sectarian because "most Sinn Féin leaders aren't regular Mass-goers".

When health minister in 2012, he faced criticism over comments about blood donation.

He defended his ban on donations from gay people, saying it should be extended to people who have sex "with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes".

Later, he fought a ruling that would bring laws around LGBT adoption in Northern Ireland into line with other parts of the UK.

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

During an interview he added: "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?"

In 2016, he defended comments made regarding the appointment of Arlene Foster as first minister that critics said were sexist and belittling of women.

As Mrs Foster took Stormont's top post, Mr Poots said her "most important job" remained "that of a wife, mother and daughter".

A year later, a complaint was made to the assembly standards commissioner about a tweet which was claimed associated the LGBT community with paedophilia.

Mr Poots was commenting on an article speculating that Prince George was "a gay icon".

"Making children an icon of sexuality today, pedophilia [sic] tomorrow. Absolutely disgusting," he tweeted.

During an earlier well-publicised incident, 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, Mr Poots 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".

And last year it emerged that Mr Poots was a passenger in the vehicle when his son, former DUP councillor Luke Poots, was stopped by police for careless driving.

He wrote to the Attorney General accusing police or prosecutors of leaking the incident to the media to cause "maximum embarrassment".

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