Ulster Unionist leader, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, said:
“Edwin Poots has undermined the public health message at a time when the Executive is making the most important decisions that it will ever take in its lifetime. We are at an absolutely critical juncture in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Don`t fall for this Edwin Poots` nonsense that the DUP couldn`t have stopped this if they had wanted to. To claim the opposite and seek party political advantage is gutless and grossly irresponsible. His comments don`t reflect the reality of what happened and they can`t distance themselves from the tough decisions.
“The new restrictions were brought forward to the Executive as a paper from the First and deputy First Minister. They were agreed at the Executive meeting on Tuesday night where the DUP could have vetoed their own First Minister`s paper at any stage. The DUP make great play of having a veto on Executive decisions and haven`t been shy about using it in the past. Why not now if they had such fundamental issues with the restrictions?
“Once it was agreed at the Executive, it was the DUP leader who brought the paper to the Assembly, endorsed it and promoted it in media outlets throughout the country.
“If Edwin Poots feels so strongly in now opposing previously unanimous Executive decisions which his party endorsed, then he should do the honourable thing and consider his position as an Executive Minister. He can`t have his cake and eat it; he can`t be in Government and opposition at the same time. Michelle O’Neill did the same during the early stages of the pandemic and was rightly criticised.“Nobody wants to introduce any restrictions that curtail normal life, but we are in the midst of a public health crisis the like of which we have never seen before. Everybody wants to protect jobs and to suggest otherwise is disgusting and offensive. The quicker that we all focus on reducing the R number and breaking the rate of transmission, Executive Ministers included, the quicker we`ll be able to get our economy fully open again.”