DUP will reach out to broad range of unionist opinion, Poots says

·2-min read

Edwin Poots has insisted the DUP will reach out to a broad range of unionist opinion under his leadership.

Mr Poots is viewed as a traditionalist within the DUP with a conservative outlook on a variety of social issues.

He has faced criticism in the past for controversial comments about members of the LGBT community.

Ahead of his confirmation as DUP leader, Mr Poots told the PA news agency he would treat members of the LGBT community like he would anyone else, as he expressed a desire to create a Northern Ireland where everyone is “free to be what they wish to be”.

The Lagan Valley MLA insisted he did not want to narrow the DUP’s support base.

“Edwin Poots the individual is someone who’s a caring individual who will work for anyone irrespective of their background who wants to see Northern Ireland in a better place for everyone,” he said.

Mr Poots recalled a republican paramilitary murder bid on his late father Charlie as he expressed determination that Northern Ireland would not slip back to the dark days of the Troubles.

“I am a child of the Troubles – I recognise the impact the Troubles had on my life growing up. We had the hand of death wanted to be inflicted on our own home. Thankfully, it wasn’t successful.

“But I don’t want future generations to be going through that. I want them growing up in a Northern Ireland where they’re free to be what they wish to be.”

Asked what his message to the LGBT community would be in light of some of his past comments, Mr Poots said: “Edwin Poots is going to work for every single person in Northern Ireland, I don’t care what your background is.

“I want you to have a comfortable home. I want you to have good education. I want you to have good health service. I want you to have the opportunity to be what you wish to be in Northern Ireland.

“I want Northern Ireland to be one of the best places in the world to live.”

With new Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie having signalled an intent to move his party to the centre ground with a more liberal agenda, Mr Poots was asked whether his election as a known conservative potentially represented a realignment of the unionist political spectrum.

“I want to get the broadest swathe of unionist opinion behind the Democratic Unionist Party,” he replied.

“We are the party which represents most unionists. Therefore, I want my reach to be broad and far. If Doug wants to narrow his down, that’s entirely up to him.”

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