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front runner Six most controverisal comments of DUP's Edwin Poots, bookies' favourite to succeed Arlene Foster

Poots is said to be the favourite for the post after Arlene Foster said she would stand aside as Stormont First Minister and DUP leader

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Edwin Poots has never been far from controversy PIC PACEMAKER

Edwin Poots has never been far from controversy PIC PACEMAKER

Edwin Poots has never been far from controversy PIC PACEMAKER

Following the departure of Arlene Foster as First Minister of Northern Ireland, political insiders have widely tipped Edwin Poots to be the frontrunner in the battle to take over her mantle.

However, the agriculture minister has never been far from controversy during his political career.

A devout Christian, Poots often made comments greeted with scorn commenting on his personal views when it comes to certain sections of the community.

Here are some of the potential new leader of Northern Ireland's most contentious remarks.

Blood donations

In 2012, while serving as health minister, Poots came in for criticism for comments he made on gay people as well as African people who wished to give blood.

At the time Poots had refused to bring Northern Irish law into line with the rest of the UK, and maintained his ban on gay men who wish to donate blood.

When asked why he insisted on the ban on gay people giving blood by the BBC, he responded: "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.”

Donald Makony from the African Carribean Community Support Organisation in Northern Ireland described Poots’ comments as “disgusting” and demanded an apology.

Supreme Court rejection

In 2013 the UK Supreme Court rejected an attempt by Poots to challenge an Appeal Court ruling that allowed for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in Northern Ireland.

Again, it was an instance of Poots attempting opposing legislation that would bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK, which allows unmarried couples of any sexual orientation to be considered for adoption.

At the time, the director of the Rainbow Project, a Northern Irish LGBT organisation, said of the ruling: "Enough public money has been spent on this fool's errand. The minister should focus his time on ensuring the best available homes for children in care in Northern Ireland."

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Foster comments

In 2016, after Arlene Foster was elected as the new DUP leader, Poots said he thought her most important job was as a "wife, mother and daughter".

He later backtracked on the comments and said that they were taken the "wrong way".

He added: "When I was health minister, I used to say that it was my second most important job, the most important one being a husband, father and son."

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Poots took to Twitter to vent his frustration that a LGBT website used a picture of Prince George describing him as "gay icon"

Poots took to Twitter to vent his frustration that a LGBT website used a picture of Prince George describing him as "gay icon"

Poots took to Twitter to vent his frustration that a LGBT website used a picture of Prince George describing him as "gay icon"

Prince George

In 2017 an Northern Irish LGBT website, PinkNews, published a picture on the front page of Prince George on a helicopter holding his face in his hands.

A line alongside the photo read: 'Prince George has become a gay icon overnight'.

Poots took to Twitter afterwards, posting a link to a letter TUV leader Jim Allister wrote to the chief executive of PinkNews, in which he criticised the publication of the photograph and the statement alongside it.

Poots tweeted: 'Totally supporting Jim on this one, making children an icon of sexuality today, pedophilia (sic) tomorrow. Absolutely disgusting.'

The tweet, which some people perceived to link homosexuality with paedophilia, was met with outrage.

The Green Party in Northern Ireland launched a petition calling on Stormont's Commissioner for Standards to investigate Poots.

A spokesperson for the Green Party said at the time: "Mr Poots' tweet, with its grossly offensive linking of the LGBTQ community with 'pedophilia' (sic) is contrary to the Northern Ireland Assembly Code of Conduct."

Coronavirus

Just a year ago, Poots was asked to apologise after saying the coronavirus appeared to be more prevalent in nationalist areas.

His comments came after the funeral of IRA and Sinn Fein man Bobby Storey during which Sinn Fein members were accused of breaking pandemic regulations.

Poots, who has previously criticised the imposition of strict lockdown rules, when speaking on UTV, said: "I will abide by the regulations, as have most people in my community.

"What I'm saying is, those people who didn't abide by them, including the Sinn Fein leadership – because a lot of this started shortly after the Bobby Storey funeral...

"A lot of the problems started after that event and people in that community saw the breaking of the rules."

Referring to what he said was the number of cases in nationalist areas when compared to unionist areas, Poots claimed: "That's why there is a difference between nationalist areas and unionist areas; the difference is around six to one."

His comments were met with fury by Sinn Fein politicians, one of whom, John O'Dowd, branded Poots' statement as a "disgrace".

The Department of Health also released a statement after his comments, saying Covid-19 was a threat to everyone in Northern Ireland "regardless of their background" and that "data on Covid infections is not collected according to religious or political affiliation."

Creationist views

Poots’ Christian views have often been cast into the spotlight and his faith has previously been cited as the reasoning behind his controversial comments.

Before he was made environment minister, back in 2009, Poots spoke of his creationist belief that the world was created by God around 6,000 years ago, at about 4,000 BC, as is written in the Bible.

He said he did not believe there was enough scientific evidence to suggest the Earth was created billions of years ago as is widely scientifically accepted.

Using the ancient volcanic basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway as an example, he said: “I do not believe the Giant’s Causeway is 60 million years old. If other people make an issue of that, it’s up to them.”

Speaking of his faith at the time, he said: “I am a Bible-believing Christian and I do not see that will impact in any way, shape or form on my role as Environment Minister.

“If you believe God made this Earth, you will believe you should look after something he has given us.”

In 2012 Poots said that while he is not a member of the lobbying creationist group, the Caleb Foundation, some of his views “coincide with the Caleb Foundation.”

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