DUP politician Edwin Poots is being tipped as a potential successor to Arlene Foster after she announced that she was stepping down.
The former health minister has a long history of opposing LGBT+ rights, but he is already being named by political pundits as a potential future leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Edwin Poots, who has also served as both minister of the environment, is a “young earth creationist” who doesn’t believe in evolution.
Throughout his political career, he has repeatedly courted controversy for his barbed remarks about the LGBT+ community – as well as a poorly received comment that Arlene Foster’s “most important job” remained “that of a wife, mother and daughter” when she became leader of the DUP.
Poots’ war with the LGBT+ community began in earnest in 2012 when he fought vociferously to stop gay and bisexual men from donating blood in Northern Ireland.
Speaking to the BBC at the time, Poots said: “I think that people who engage in high risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood… And so someone who has sex with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes, I am very reluctant about those people being able to give blood.”
In 2013, it emerged that, as health minister, Poots had used thousands in public funds in a bid to stop same-sex couples from legally adopting children.
Poots got on the wrong side of Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ community when he announced that he would be appealing a 2012 High Court ruling that declared the territory was discriminating against same-sex couples in civil partnerships by not allowing them to adopt. His failed legal challenge cost the taxpayer £40,000.
Defending his anti-LGBT+ stance at the time, Poots said: “Shame on the courts for going down the road of constantly attacking Christian principles, Christian ethics, Christian morals, which this society was based on and gave us a very good foundation.”
As speculation mounted this week that Arlene Foster was set to be ousted as leader of the DUP, Poots was quickly named as her potential successor.
While Foster will be remembered by many within the LGBT+ community as a polarising force who often reaffirmed her party’s anti-gay views, some within the DUP viewed her as too progressive.
If Poots becomes the next leader of the DUP – and, as a result, the next first minister of Northern Ireland – he will likely bring the party even further to the right.
Edwin Poots has been contacted for comment.