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Northern Ireland: Creationist Christian Edwin Poots elected new leader of Democratic Unionist party

Edwin Poots has been elected as the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, it was announced today.

The Stormont agriculture minister, who is an evangelical Christian creationist, beat more moderate Westminster MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson by 19 votes to 17.

The vote suggests the party was divided over its future direction, with Mr Poots representing a more conservative wing. 

He is a ‘young earth creationist’ who rejects the theory of evolution and believes the world was made by God around 4,000 BC.

Critics have also attacked what they see as a long history of attacking LGBT rights in Ulster. He supported Christian bakers who in 2015 were cleared of discrimination after refusing to make a cake for gay rights activists in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

He also attracted criticism when Arlene Foster became DUP leader when he said her ‘most important job’ remained ‘that of a wife, mother and daughter’. 

He has also taken a hardline stance against the post-Brexit ‘protocol’ for Northern Ireland, which since the start of the year has effectively kept the province in the European customs union and single market for goods. 

Mr Poorts is a ‘young earth creationist’ who rejects the theory of evolution and believes the world was made by God around 4,000 BC

Mr Poots and Sir Jeffrey ran to replace Arlene Foster, who announced her resignation last month.

Mr Poots and Sir Jeffrey ran to replace Arlene Foster, who announced her resignation last month.

The Stormont agriculture minister beat more moderate former MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (above, today) by 19 votes to 17.

The Stormont agriculture minister beat more moderate former MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (above, today) by 19 votes to 17.

Young earth creationist and LGBT critic who represents DUP’s traditional wing 

Edwin Poots is a creationist and farmer seen as a political hardliner –  who was involved in ousting Arlene Foster. 

The 55-year-old father-of-four’s on LGBT rights have led to criticism – he has opposed gay men and women adopting children or giving blood in the past. 

He supported Christian bakers who in 2015 were found guilty of discrimination after refusing to make a cake for gay rights activists.

But it is another part of his evangelical Christian beliefs that attract the most attention. 

He is a ‘young earth creationist’ who rejects the theory of evolution and believes the world was made by God around 4,000 BC.

He has also criticised the theory of evolution and outspoken humanist scientist Richard Dawkins.

He also attracted criticism when Arlene Foster became DUP leader when he said her ‘most important job’ remained ‘that of a wife, mother and daughter’. 

Discontent at the DUP’s Brexit strategy was a major factor in the move against Mrs Foster, with party rank-and-file laying some of the blame for the emergence of an Irish Sea border at her door.

Traditionalists from the party’s religious fundamentalist wing also harboured concerns over positions Mrs Foster has taken on some social issues, in particular her decision to abstain in a recent Assembly vote on a proposed ban on gay conversion therapy – a proposal the majority of her party colleagues opposed.

Reacting to his election, Mr Poots, who recently underwent cancer surgery, said the party would ‘continue to be the authentic voice of unionism under my leadership’,

‘It is an immense honour and pleasure to stand here today in this position, it is not a position that I expected to be in some weeks ago. However, things can change quite radically,’ he said. 

‘I’m looking forward to a positive relationship right across Northern Ireland with my party colleagues and indeed with people from other parties.

‘I think the opportunities for Northern Ireland are great, the opportunities for us to make Northern Ireland a great place after this 100 years has passed and we move into a new 100 years.’

Mr Poots and Sir Jeffrey ran to replace Ms Foster, who announced her resignation last month.

She was ousted after pressure by party colleagues unhappy with her leadership and will step down from that role on May 28, and as Stormont First Minister at the end of June.

The campaign for the first leadership contest in the DUP’s 50-year history has been unusual, in so much as the party prevented both men speaking publicly about their candidature.

Only the 36 members of the party’s electoral college, made up of its MPs and Stormont Assembly members, were eligible to vote. 

Sir Jeffrey said: ‘What we sought to do was to offer the party a choice and I have no regrets about putting my name forward to give the party a clear choice in the decision they had to make.

‘And they have made their choice and I respect that and now the party must consider what that means for our way forward, what it means for the Union that we all cherish and what it means for Northern Ireland, this place that is my home, a place that I love.

‘So, my congratulations to our new leader designate and new deputy leader designate and we move forward from here.’

 

Mr Poots has said if he wins the position of party leader he will not serve as first minister, but will delegate the position elsewhere.

He was asked about his religious beliefs during a BBC radio interview back in 2007.

Asked how old he believes the earth is, he reportedly replied: ‘My view on the earth is that it’s a young earth. My view is 4000 BC.’

Mr Poots was a culture minister at the time of the interview and he was asked by another interviewee: ‘You’re the culture minister and you don’t believe in evolution?’

He replied: ‘Yes, absolutely. And you’re telling me that all of this evolution took place over billions of years, and yet it’s only in the last few thousand years that Man could actually learn to write?’

Mr Poots hit out at the scientist Richard Dawkins during the same interview, telling the programme: ‘He [Mr Dawkins] wants to indoctrinate everyone with evolution.’

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