DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds has called upon the UUP leader Reg Empey to immediately denounce comments made by former UUP Minister Sam Foster and make it clear that the sexist attitude of the UUP in Fermanagh is out of order. Mr. Dodds made his call following comments by Sam Foster questioning the ability of a woman to hold down roles equivalent to those held by Sam Foster’s Party colleague Cllr Michael McGimpsey, and less than those held by the UUP’s Party leader Cllr Reg Empey. Responding to the comments Mr. Dodds, the MP for North Belfast said,
“It certainly is scraping the bottom of the barrel when political knockabout stops and mud-slinging starts. The core of former UUP Minister Sam Foster’s arguments in a letter to a Fermanagh newspaper are that a woman cannot hold down the same roles which are currently being held by Sam’s own male Party colleagues. Sam Foster questions how someone could possibly be a good wife and mother if they should have the ‘audacity’ to be a Councillor, MLA and Minister. He also suggests that Basil Johnson is a good candidate because “he is a single person”. From when did marital status become a determining factor of one’s ability to be a Councillor?
Let me ask Sam Foster if he believes that Michael McGimpsey can be a good father, husband, Councillor, MLA and Minister? Furthermore, does he believe his Party leader is able to fulfil his roles as a father, husband, Councillor, MLA, Minister and also his extra role as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party? Quite frankly, these remarks would not have been made about a male election candidate – it is blatant sexism. However, we probably should not be surprised at the views being espoused by this senior Ulster Unionist given the undercurrent of sexism which has been prevalent from Ulster Unionists on the ground right throughout this election campaign. It also perhaps goes some way to explain why there isn’t a single woman on the UUP benches at Stormont.
I am demanding a statement immediately from the Ulster Unionist leader denouncing these comments, and distancing himself from the kind of sexist attitude which is clearly prevalent within his Party in Fermanagh. I note that no action was ever taken after comments previously made by the former UUP MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone during the 2005 General Election campaign. So much for the radical structural changes to the UUP which Reg Empey claimed to have made! Surely Reg Empey cannot tolerate this kind of attitude as a core Ulster Unionist value or will action be taken to stamp out these prejudices and disciplinary action taken against those members? That is a key question for the man who leads the UUP.
I, like all politicians, am prepared to engage in political debate, but I most certainly am not prepared to endure what amounts to personal abuse being flung at a candidate simply on the grounds of gender. I am asking people to cast their votes, not on the basis of gender, but on ability to do the job, and to return a Party which can deliver for the people of Enniskillen. That is the platform on which the DUP is running a very enthusiastic and vigorous campaign. The fact that the Ulster Unionist Party is resorting to this kind of personal invective and bile obviously makes a very clear statement about the state of desperation within their camp.”