By James Ward, PA
The new leader of the DUP has launched a scathing attack on two senior figures in the Irish Government, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.
After his ratification as leader on Thursday night, Edwin Poots described his relationship with the Irish Government as “really, really bad”.
Mr Poots, who has replaced the outgoing Arlene Foster as leader, said that he has respect for Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
But he took aim at deputy Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, both of whom were key figures in the Brexit negotiations under the last Government.
Mr Poots appears to have taken issue with an incident from 2018, in which Mr Varadkar brought a copy of the Irish Times newspaper to a European Council meeting in Brussels, to highlight his concerns over the Irish border issue.
That paper had featured a story on its front page about an IRA bombing of a Border customs post in 1972 that left nine people dead.
Asked about his relationship with Dublin following his ratification as leader, Edwin Poots replied: “I would say that I have respect for Micheál Martin.
“But I have to say that for Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, who took photographs of blown up border posts to impose upon Northern Ireland people the harshest form of customs and an internal market that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world, that was quite frankly disgraceful.
“They are going to starve Northern Ireland people of medicines no less, cancer drugs and other materials, such as the food that’s on our table.
“And I say that’s a shame on the Irish government that they (did) that, and that belongs to Fine Gael, under the leadership of Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.
“So relationships are really, really bad for the Irish government as a consequence.”