A DUP MP has been criticised after claiming the Stormont health minister is “acting like a poodle”.
Amid tensions between the DUP and other parties over the post-lockdown reopening of schools, Sammy Wilson accused Robin Swann of acting like a “poodle for the unaccountable chief medical officer”.
The Executive last week agreed a phased approach to the reopening of schools.
However, following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that all pupils in England will return to school on March 8, DUP leader Arlene Foster called for the Executive’s decision to be revisited.
DUP education minister Peter Weir claimed Northern Ireland risks treating its children as second-class citizens if it does not accelerate the pace of school reopening.
The DUP is urging Stormont Executive colleagues to revisit the plan for primary school children in P1 to P3 to return on March 8.
Under the plan, secondary school children in key exam years – years 12-14 – will return two weeks later.
On that date, P1 to P3 will revert to remote learning for another week.
No date has been given for the return of the wider school population.
Mr Swann has remained committed to the phased reopening.
NI Chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Michael McBride has insisted he is not at odds with other UK CMOs on his approach to schools reopening.
Earlier this week, he defended his advocacy of a phased return to face-to-face learning, warning that a rush out of lockdown could trigger the worst wave of Covid yet.
Mr Wilson tweeted on Thursday morning: “The Health Minister needs to show some political independence and start acting as a politician rather than a poodle for the unaccountable chief medical officer.”
Mr Swann responded on Twitter. “If I had to chose (sic), I would have always considered myself more of a Jack Russell.”
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan criticised Mr Wilson’s comments as “a bit unedifying” while SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said they were “unhelpful, thoughtless and frankly insulting”.
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie tweeted: “Had I called a DUP MP a poodle.. it would be followed by a line of responses saying ‘unionism cutting lumps out of each other is not a good look’.
"Yet silence from same people now. Want to know why we have lost unionist majority, have an Irish Sea Border, haemorrhaging votes.”