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The Telegraph

Who is Edwin Poots? Fundamentalist Christian and former farmer elected leader of the DUP[1]

Edwin Poots, the newly elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, is a conviction politician. One of those convictions includes a belief that the Earth is just 6,000 years old and was created by God in about 4,000 BC. A fundamentalist Christian, Mr Poots, 55, is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, the religious church founded in 1951 by The Reverend Dr Ian Paisley 20 years before he set up the DUP. Not surprisingly, Dr Paisley, one of the towering figures of Northern Ireland politics up until his death in 2014, was Mr Poots’ great childhood inspiration. In 2007, Mr Poots had been asked on a radio programme about his creationist beliefs. “My view on the Earth is that it’s a young Earth. My view is 4000BC,” he explained. Asked if that meant he dismissed the science of evolution, he was clear. “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? You’re telling me that cosmic balls of dust gathered and there was an explosion? We’ve had lots of explosions in Northern Ireland and I’ve never seen anything come out of that that was good.” His father, Charles Poots, was a founding member of the DUP and Mr Poots junior joined up at the age of 16. He has been in the party all his adult life. His Christian conservatism makes him a popular choice among DUP die-hards, but his views will go down far less well with Sinn Fein, the political wing of the now defunct Provisional IRA, with whom the DUP must do business if Stormont is to survive under its power-sharing agreements. Gay men blood donation debacle As a health minister in Stormont, he tried to maintain a ban on gay men giving blood; a rule imposed across the UK at the height of the AIDS epidemic and only lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011. However, Mr Poots, who was health minister up until 2014, tried to keep the ban in place and the prohibition was only overturned in the law courts, which ruled that his decision-making was “infected by apparent bias”. Mr Poots, a father-of-four, had insisted his stance was based on the need to be certain of the “safety” of blood supplies. He was dismayed by the court’s interference in the matter, telling members of the Northern Ireland Assembly in belligerent fashion: “There is a continual battering of Christian principles, and I have to say this – shame on the courts for going down the route of constantly attacking Christian principles, Christian ethics and Christian morals, on which this society was based and which have given us a very good foundation.”