By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The North's outgoing Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said she hopes the DUP can now come together after unrest following the appointment of the new leader.
Splits within the party were exposed after the election of Edwin Poots last month.
A number of party members have resigned and, following a ministerial reshuffle, departing Education and Economy ministers Peter Weir and Mrs Dodds both claimed Mr Poots’ choices for senior Assembly roles were evidence of failure to reach out to those who opposed him in the leadership contest.
Mrs Dodds had tweeted: “It is regrettable that the new team announced does not match the rhetoric about healing and bringing the party together.”
She was asked about her tweet when speaking to the media on Wednesday and said: “I said what I said yesterday, I don’t resile from that. I do genuinely wish Paul [Frew] all the best as he takes up this post.
Every new leader has the right to choose the team that they want, that is what has happened
“I have always said that division is very difficult for any political party and that is true also of the DUP.
“I hope that the party can come together, because the most important thing we can do is look at the economy, drive forward growth and prosperity and then provide the widest possible platform for those people who want to vote for the union.”
When asked about her own future, Mrs Dodds said: “I will always be an advocate for the union, I will always seek to get that broadest level of support for the union, I think that that is massively, massively important and that is where I see my future and see it developing.”
When asked if that meant staying within the DUP, she replied: “Yes.”
She continued: “Every new leader has the right to choose the team that they want, that is what has happened.”
Mrs Dodds said she had not had time to speak to the new minister, but expected to do so soon.
Meanwhile, the man who is set to replace her as economy minister has insisted that there is “one DUP”.
North Antrim MLA Paul Frew told the BBC: “First of all it’s a new team, the new leader has put in place a team around him that he knows well and he trusts us to achieve things and to bring positivity and to promote Northern Ireland.
“We need settled government, we’ve had our leadership challenge now, we move on as one party, there are no more camps, there are no more teams, there is one DUP.
“People lose positions in parties and in politics, I’ve lost positions, these things happen.”