The DUP's Sammy Wilson has described Michelle O'Neill's comments that Arlene Foster should not be put forward for office following the election as "an outrageous attempt by Sinn Féin to dictate to unionists in general and the DUP in particular as to who will be our leader."
The Sinn Féin leader and Mid Ulster MLA candidate told the BBC in an interview that Mrs Foster should not become First Minister again in a future executive until being cleared by an inquiry into the botched energy scheme.
The East Antrim MP said: " Arlene Foster has been an effective leader for unionism and that is the only reason why Sinn Fein are keen to suggest Mrs Foster should not be seeking Ministerial office.
"This is all the more nonsensical coming from Sinn Fein given they claim to want to avoid direct rule and who have left the people of Northern Ireland without a budget. It is becoming clear that Sinn Féin want the unionist community to elect a leader that is much more in the mould of the previous roll-over unionism from a past era.
"Our message to Michelle O’Neill is clear – Arlene Foster is our leader and the Sinn Fein desire to get rid of her will not succeed. Thankfully the people provide the mandate. Throughout Northern Ireland people are seeing the real reason why Sinn Féin called the election and that Sinn Fein want to see unionism weakened.”