Sammy Wilson (politician)

Samuel Wilson[1] (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.[2] 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.[3] He has endorsed an Ulster Defence Association document calling for genocide should the British abandon Northern Ireland.[4]

Sammy Wilson

Wilson in June 2017
Democratic Unionist Party Chief Whip in the House of Commons
Assumed office
17 December 2019
Preceded byJeffrey Donaldson
Minister of Finance and Personnel
In office
1 July 2009  29 July 2013
First MinisterPeter Robinson
Preceded byNigel Dodds
Succeeded bySimon Hamilton
Minister of the Environment
In office
9 June 2008  1 July 2009
First MinisterPeter Robinson
Preceded byArlene Foster
Succeeded byEdwin Poots
Parliamentary Representation
Member of Parliament
for East Antrim
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded byRoy Beggs
Majority6,616 (18.0%)
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for East Antrim
In office
26 November 2003  11 August 2015
Preceded byRoger Hutchinson
Succeeded byGordon Lyons
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for East Belfast
In office
25 June 1998  26 November 2003
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byRobin Newton
Local Government Representation
31st and 45th Lord Mayor of Belfast
In office
Preceded byBob Stoker
Succeeded byJim Rodgers
In office
Preceded byJohn Carson
Succeeded byJ. J. Dixon Gilmore
Councillor for Belfast City Council
In office
Personal details
Born (1953-04-04) 4 April 1953 (age 68)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Political partyDemocratic Unionist
Alma materQueen's University Belfast
ProfessionMember of Parliament

Personal life

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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."[8]

Political career

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).[9] 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".[10]

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.[4][11] 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".[4] 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".[4]

MLA for East Belfast

In May 1996, Wilson was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum for the constituency of East Belfast and went on to represent this area in the Northern Ireland Assembly upon its creation in June 1998.

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.[12]

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.

Wilson is a former member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and Northern Ireland Housing Council.

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.[13]

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.[14]

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".[15]

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.[16]

In March 2019, Wilson was one of 21 MPs who voted against LGBT inclusive sex and relationship education in English schools.[17][18]

Wilson was photographed on the London Underground without a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2020.[19]

Minister for the Environment (2008–2009)

On 9 June 2008, Wilson joined the Northern Ireland Executive as Minister of the Environment.

His appointment and tenure as Environment Minister were heavily criticised by environmental groups.[20][21] Wilson rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. He believes that man-made climate change is a "myth based on dodgy science"[22] and "an hysterical pseudo-religion."[23] 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".[21] 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".[21]

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".[24] He also stated "that future ecological messages could only be promoted in Northern Ireland with his permission".[25] 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".[26]

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".[27]

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".[28] Following racist attacks on Romanian people in Belfast,[29] Wilson commented that "charges of racism were always coincided with the holding out of the hand for more money".[28] The Northern Ireland Assembly Standards Committee dismissed complaints made against him over these remarks.[30]

Wilson's tenure as Finance Minister coincided with the worst recession in the history of Northern Ireland.[31] He criticised banks in Northern Ireland for not increasing lending to businesses.[32] Wilson was commended for displaying leadership and received cross-party support for stopping bonuses to civil servants during the recession.[30]

Wilson was replaced as Finance Minister in July 2013 by DUP colleague Simon Hamilton, in a planned reshuffle.

Brexit position

On 29th January 2019, Sammy Wilson claimed that with potential food shortages in the UK after Brexit, people could "Go to the chippy."[33] 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.[34]


  1. "Who's Who".
  2. Northern Ireland Assembly Information Office (1 July 1998). "Northern Ireland Assembly Report Wednesday July 1, 1999". Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  3. Northern Ireland Assembly Information Office. "Ministers and their Departments, Northern Ireland Assembly". Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  4. Wood, Ian S. Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA. Edinburgh University Press, 2006. Pages 184–185.
  5. Bowcott, Owen (20 May 2009). "Alzheimer's barbs spark row in Stormont". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  6. "Sammy Wilson MP MLA » Biography". 5 May 2005. Archived from the original on 15 August 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  7. Cassidy, John (8 October 2000). "MAYOR SETTLES NAKED ROMP PICTURES ROW; Sammy wins damages over &#124". Sunday Mirror. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  8. "Northern Ireland Assembly Archive Site". 1998.
  9. Fortnight Magazine, Issue 297, p. 23-24. Fortnight Publications, 1991.
  10. Fortnight Magazine, Issue 322, p. 32-33. Fortnight Publications, 1993.
  11. "CAIN". Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  12. "Sectarian incidents and attacks June 2001". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  13. "Environment Minister Sammy Wilson : agendaNI Magazine – Informing Northern Ireland's Decision Makers". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  14. "Sammy Wilson hits back over 'ethnics out' comment". BBC News. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  15. "Women who breastfeed in the House of Commons chamber are 'exhibitionists', claims MP". The Telegraph. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  16. "Sammy Wilson 'agrees' with murals comparing IRA to ISIS". Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  17. "MPS vote for LGBT inclusive sex and relationship education from primary school". 28 March 2019.
  18. "Draft Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 - CommonsVotes".
  19. Diver, Tony (25 September 2020). "DUP MP Sammy Wilson rails against 'Stasi state' after being caught on train without a face mask". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  20. "New environment boss 'sceptical'". BBC News. 10 June 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  21. "Wilson row over green 'alarmists'". BBC News. 5 September 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  22. "Sammy Wilson MP MLA » Issues". Archived from the original on 15 August 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  23. "Cranmer: Sammy Wilson agrees with the Pope – on global warming". 10 February 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  24. "Quit call over blocked green ad". BBC News. 9 February 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  25. McDonald, Henry (10 February 2009). "Calls for Stormont environment minister to quit over CO2 ad ban". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  26. Stingley, Jeremy (9 February 2009). "The environment minister who is anything but green – Short Sharp Science". New Scientist. London. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  27. "DUP reshuffle". BBC. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  28. "Finance Minister Sammy Wilson clashes with group over racism". 7 August 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  29. "PM condemns Romanian hate attacks". BBC News. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  30. "Wilson displays leadership quality on public service bonuses". 9 September 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  31. "NI enduring 'worst ever' slowdown". BBC News. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  32. "Sammy Wilson cleared over jobs for locals complaint". BBC News. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  33. "'Go to the chippy'". BBC News.
  34. "DUP: 'Perfectly possible' for May 'to have the backstop removed'". 30 January 2019.