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DUP Leader and First Minister Arlene Foster spoke with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP on Friday morning.

After the meeting Mrs Foster said,

“This was a useful discussion where I was able to thank the Defence Secretary for making over one hundred professional medics available to the Nightingale hospital in Northern Ireland. This arrangement was made under the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities scheme which is managed by the Ministry of Defence.

I was greatly saddened by those who have criticised this deployment for intolerant pollical reasons. They have placed their ideology before the needs of patients. That is an appalling indictment on their motivations in public life.

I recall previous emergencies in Northern Ireland when we were very glad to receive air support from the Republic of Ireland Air Corps for farmers with stranded animals. That is what neighbours do, they help each other in times of need.

I welcomed the Defence Secretary’s assurances of further assistance if it was needed and I reassured the Minister that the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland welcomed the support.

This week should be the peak of hospital admissions. The Department of Health modelling suggests that the admissions should start reducing shortly. At the moment, it is a case of all hands-on-deck but even after this wave there will still be a need for support so routine surgeries can be reinstated.

We commend all those working in our hospitals who are going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our loved ones can receive treatment. For my part, I will do all I can to support them in any way possible as they do their vital jobs.”