Sammy Wilson (politician)
Samuel Wilson (born 4 April 1953) is a British politician, serving as the Chief Whip of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the House of Commons since 2019. Wilson has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for East Antrim since 2005. He served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Belfast East from 1998 to 2003 and for East Antrim from 2003 until 2015. He served as Lord Mayor of Belfast from 1986 to 1987 and again from 2000 to 2001, the first person from the DUP to hold the office. He has also served as Minister of Finance and Personnel and Minister of the Environment in the Northern Ireland Executive. He has endorsed an Ulster Defence Association document calling for genocide should the British abandon Northern Ireland.
|Democratic Unionist Party Chief Whip in the House of Commons|
|Assumed office |
17 December 2019
|Preceded by||Jeffrey Donaldson|
|Minister of Finance and Personnel|
1 July 2009 – 29 July 2013
|First Minister||Peter Robinson|
|Preceded by||Nigel Dodds|
|Succeeded by||Simon Hamilton|
|Minister of the Environment|
9 June 2008 – 1 July 2009
|First Minister||Peter Robinson|
|Preceded by||Arlene Foster|
|Succeeded by||Edwin Poots|
|Born||4 April 1953|
Belfast, Northern Ireland
|Political party||Democratic Unionist|
|Alma mater||Queen's University Belfast|
|Profession||Member of Parliament|
Wilson was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the son of Alexander Wilson, pastor of Bangor Elim Pentecostal Church. Both of his parents died of Alzheimer's. He was educated at Methodist College in Belfast, and then went on to study Economics and Politics at both Queen's University of Belfast and Stranmillis University College. Wilson's first job was a teaching post at Grosvenor Grammar School. He later became the Head of Economics at the school, and also served as Assistant Chief Examiner for A-Level Economics for the CCEA exam board in Northern Ireland.
In May 1996, the Sunday World published a series of candid holiday photographs showing Wilson and his girlfriend naked. Wilson subsequently sued the paper for damages, which were settled out of court. After the incident, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly by saying "It is also very good to come across someone like Mr Sammy Wilson, whom I have never met, and it is great to see him today with his clothes on."
DUP Press Officer
Wilson began his political life as the Democratic Unionist Party's Press Officer. He served as Press Officer from 1982 to 1996. In 1981, he was elected as a DUP councillor to Belfast City Council, a position that he held until March 2010. Through his membership of the city council, Wilson became the first person from the DUP to serve as Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1986 / 1987. Wilson stood in East Belfast at the 1982 Assembly election but was not elected. In June 1991, during a heated council meeting where Nigel Dodds was installed as mayor, Wilson congratulated those who had "rid Ireland over the last month of those who have politically or militarily supported [the IRA]", referring to the death of three IRA men in an SAS ambush in County Tyrone and the assassination of Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). He first contested a seat for Parliament in 1992, when he stood for Strangford, but came second with 23% of the vote. In September 1993 the day after the UDA (under its "Ulster Freedom Fighters" cover name) claimed responsibility for firebomb attacks on several Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) premises, Wilson described the GAA as "the IRA at play".
In January 1994, the UDA released a document calling for the repartition of Ireland and genocide, with the goal of creating a Northern Ireland rump state which would be wholly Protestant. The plan was to be implemented should the British Army withdraw from Northern Ireland. Some areas with strong Catholic/nationalist majorities near the Irish border would be handed over to the Republic of Ireland, and those Catholics left stranded in the "Protestant state" would be "expelled, nullified, or interned". Controversially, Wilson called the plan a "very valuable return to reality". He added: "[it] shows that some loyalist paramilitaries are looking ahead and contemplating what needs to be done to maintain our separate Ulster identity".
MLA for East Belfast
Wilson again served as Lord Mayor of Belfast between June 2000 and June 2001. During his time as Mayor, the Andersonstown News set up a website to highlight Wilson's "naked sectarianism". The site included such quotes from Wilson as: "The GAA is the sporting wing of the IRA"; "I don't care if [gays] are ratepayers. As far as I am concerned they are perverts"; "Taigs don't pay rates"; and "They [Sinn Féin voters in the Oldpark area of Belfast] are sub-human animals". The Andersonstown News had challenged Wilson to take legal action if he felt he was being misrepresented. He did not. The website voluntarily shut down when he ended his tenure as Mayor.
MLA and MP for East Antrim
In the 2003 Assembly election, Wilson stood successfully in the East Antrim constituency, alongside fellow DUP candidates George Dawson and David Hilditch. This momentum was carried through to the 2005 Westminster Election on 5 May, which saw Wilson defeat Roy Beggs of the Ulster Unionist Party, to become Member of Parliament for East Antrim with 49.6% of the vote.
In his role as DUP education spokesman, Wilson was one of the most vocal critics of Education Minister Caitríona Ruane's plan to abolish academic selection and introduce a comprehensive school system in Northern Ireland.
He resigned from his position as chair of the Education Committee when he took up his role as Minister for the Environment.
In March 2016, during a BBC Spotlight episode discussing the implications of the EU referendum, Wilson was recorded agreeing with a member of the public who said that they wanted to leave the European Union and "get the ethnics out". Wilson stated: "You are absolutely right". Wilson said he was agreeing with the desire to leave the European Union, not the "ethnics out" call. Wilson was criticised by the Polish consul in Northern Ireland and various other political parties.
In July 2016, he called breastfeeding in the House of Commons chamber "voyeuristic" and said: "To me, anyone who chooses to do it in the chamber rather than who do it in the quietness of their office, is doing it for reasons other than simply feeding the child, to make a point".
On 25 February 2017, he was interviewed by American broadcaster PBS in which he claimed there "has always been an affiliation between the Irish republicans and terrorist groups, especially in the Middle East". He also commented that he agreed with the message behind an Ulster loyalist mural which equated the IRA and Sinn Féin to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Minister for the Environment (2008–2009)
His appointment and tenure as Environment Minister were heavily criticised by environmental groups. Wilson rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. He believes that man-made climate change is a "myth based on dodgy science" and "an hysterical pseudo-religion." He says that "reasoned debate must replace the scaremongering of the green climate alarmists" and "resources should be used to adapt to the consequences of climate change, rather than King Canute-style vainly trying to stop it". This, along with his opposition to the creation of an independent environmental protection agency and his support for nuclear power, led the Green Party to condemn Wilson's "deeply irresponsible message" and give him the 'Green Wash' award for being the MLA most likely to damage the environment. Wilson's beliefs on climate change have been likened to "a cigarette salesman denying that smoking causes cancer" by John Woods of Friends of the Earth, who added that "Ironically, if we listen to him Northern Ireland will suffer economically as we are left behind by smarter regions who are embracing the low carbon economy of the future".
Wilson came under renewed criticism in February 2009 when he blocked the broadcast of climate change advertisements on television, calling them part of an "insidious propaganda campaign". He also stated "that future ecological messages could only be promoted in Northern Ireland with his permission". New Scientist magazine stated that despite the minister's comments, "the overwhelming majority of scientists do agree that there is a greater than 90% chance that the rate at which we burn fossil fuels is driving climate change".
Minister for Finance and Personnel (2009–2013)
In the June 2009 Executive reshuffle, Wilson became Minister of Finance and Personnel. He was praised by First Minister Peter Robinson, who said that Wilson was the "most qualified Finance Minister that Northern Ireland has had in decades".
In August 2009, Wilson was the subject of criticism from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities for saying that "jobs should go to people born in Northern Ireland before going to economic migrants". Following racist attacks on Romanian people in Belfast, Wilson commented that "charges of racism were always coincided with the holding out of the hand for more money". The Northern Ireland Assembly Standards Committee dismissed complaints made against him over these remarks.
Wilson's tenure as Finance Minister coincided with the worst recession in the history of Northern Ireland. He criticised banks in Northern Ireland for not increasing lending to businesses. Wilson was commended for displaying leadership and received cross-party support for stopping bonuses to civil servants during the recession.
Wilson was replaced as Finance Minister in July 2013 by DUP colleague Simon Hamilton, in a planned reshuffle.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2021)
On 29th January 2019, Sammy Wilson claimed that with potential food shortages in the UK after Brexit, people could "Go to the chippy." Caroline Lucas, of the Green Party of England and Wales, said the DUP should be "ashamed."
As the DUP's Brexit spokesman, Wilson said in January 2019 it was "perfectly possible" that Theresa May would be able to negotiate a revised withdrawal agreement which removes the Northern Ireland backstop.
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- "'Go to the chippy'". BBC News.
- "DUP: 'Perfectly possible' for May 'to have the backstop removed'". 30 January 2019.