Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has stated he discourages DUP colleagues from “undermining” public well being messaging on Covid-19 however persons are additionally “entitled to their private opinion”.
The DUP chief was talking after the demise of occasion councillor Paul Hamill who had been critically ailing in hospital with the virus.
Mr Hamill, 46, a former mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, had shared quite a few posts on-line in current months from vaccine and lockdown sceptics.
Sir Jeffrey instructed the BBC’s Nolan Present he didn’t know whether or not Mr Hamill had acquired the Covid vaccine.
He stated the DUP has a “clear and constant message” endorsing the vaccination roll-out and he would “proceed to encourage” occasion representatives to help the general public well being message.
However the Lagan Valley MP stopped wanting saying whether or not any DUP reps would face disciplinary motion in the event that they made feedback in opposition to authorities recommendation on Covid-19.
Sir Jeffrey stated: “The proof is there that whereas the vaccine would not forestall you from getting Covid, it definitely makes a distinction by way of the severity of Covid, and that’s our clear and constant message.”
He added: “I would definitely discourage individuals, public representatives, from taking place the street of undermining the general public well being coverage.
“We criticised Sinn Fein over the Bobby Storey funeral for the large influence their actions had on the general public well being message on Covid.
“And I definitely need to work with all of my colleagues to strengthen the general public well being message on Covid together with on vaccinations, and as chief I’ll attempt to set the instance on that.”
Sir Jeffrey stated he accepts that individuals have the non-public selection to not take the vaccine, however his occasion is encouraging individuals to take part within the jab roll-out.
He stated: “I’ll proceed to encourage my representatives at no matter degree to help the general public well being message, to help our Chief Medical Officer and others who’re endeavouring in troublesome circumstances to do their finest to safeguard all the group.”
He added: “After all persons are entitled to their private opinion and political events aren’t any totally different in that respect.
“Each occasion has debates round what coverage needs to be on a specific subject.
“However I’m very clear that our coverage as a celebration on the vaccination programme is that we help the vaccination programme and that we encourage individuals to take part in that programme, and I’ll definitely discourage my colleagues from making statements that might be designed to undermine the general public well being message.”
A web-based ebook of condolence has been opened by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council for individuals to pay their respects to Mr Hamill.
The married father of two younger daughters was highly-regarded amongst his council colleagues throughout the political spectrum.
As mayor, he acquired reward for his group outreach when in 2018 he addressed an viewers in Irish throughout an occasion at Mossley Mill for Irish Language Week.
Sir Jeffrey fondly described Mr Hamill as a “hard-working and devoted consultant” who was “revered proper throughout the group”.
Karen Smyth of the Native Authorities Affiliation paid tribute to him as an “enthusiastic and devoted public servant”, whereas Alliance councillor Tom Campbell stated Mr Hamill was “one of many genuinely good guys in native politics”.
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