N. Ireland Politics

Ruth Patterson: DUP's return to executive 'shocked me to the core'

DUP councillor Ruth Patterson
Image caption Belfast councillor Ruth Patterson said she is considering her future in the DUP

A high-profile Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor has said her party's return to the Northern Ireland Executive after the publication of a report on paramilitaries shocked her.

Ruth Patterson said she has major difficulties with the move.

She said: "It has shocked me to the core that my political party has gone back into government with Sinn Féin."

The DUP had hounded former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble over the same issue in the past, she added.

She also criticised the DUP's recent policy of resigning ministers and then having them re-appointed.

Messy

The party had removed all but one of its ministers from the executive before moving them in and out of office after the murder of a former IRA man in August sparked a political crisis.

Ms Patterson told BBC NI's The View programme the policy had been "silly".

Image caption Arlene Foster said the DUP's return to government had been the right decision

But the DUP's Arlene Foster, the current finance minster, who stood in for Peter Robinson when he stepped aside as first minister, has defended her party's rolling resignations.

She said: "I was one of the people that said it was very messy, but, as I said, we did not want to be in that position.

"We found ourselves in that position because of events that happened and we had to react to those events.

"We believe we did take the right way forward - now we are dealing with the big issues in front of us, which are paramilitary issues."

Bewilderment

Mrs Foster said the decision to return to government had been the right one after the paramilitary report was made public last week.

She added: "There is criticism when we are out [of the executive] and there is criticism when we are in, but that is just the world we live in relation to politics."


The story of Stormont's crisis


Prof Jon Tonge, an expert on Northern Ireland politics from the University of Liverpool, said the DUP's decision had puzzled some people.

"I think there is much head-scratching and bewilderment within the DUP as to why they have gone back into the executive on the basis of a report which suggests the Provisional IRA is not only in existence, but bossing Sinn Féin," he said.

"That is not the DUP we once knew."

Image caption Peter Gibson said the DUP had now "broken every promise they have made"

Peter Gibson is one unionist voter who has been swayed to change his vote because of recent events.

His father John was shot dead by the IRA in October 1993.

Overlooked

In 1998, he voted against the Good Friday Agreement and since then has backed the DUP, but he said he will not vote DUP again.

"After recent news, the publication of the report into paramilitary gangs last week not a chance," he said.

"[Now] they have broken every promise they have made."

Ms Patterson has recently put herself at odds with the party leadership after she was overlooked for an assembly seat in South Belfast that was given to former special adviser Emma Pengelly.

Mrs Pengelly has now become a junior minister in the Office of the First and deputy First Minister.

The Belfast councillor told the BBC she was considering her future in the party.

Stephen Walker's full report was broadcast on The View on BBC One Northern Ireland on Thursday 29 October.

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