No gay rights change in GB, says veteran DUP MP

Jim Shannon - Strangford.jpg
Jim Shannon - Strangford.jpg

There is no chance whatsoever of the DUP rolling back gay rights as part of its deal with the Conservatives, a veteran DUP MP has said.

Over recent days there has been enormous focus in the national media on the DUP’s past opposition to homosexuality, when it led the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign, and its more recent rejection of gay marriage in Northern Ireland.

However, Strangford MP Jim Shannon said that the party wanted in the negotiations to set conditions that “benefit everyone across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Speaking to Premier Christian Radio, Mr Shannon said: “We want to ensure that every one of the LGBT community have rights and their rights will be maintained. So, there’s going to be no changes to that whatsoever.

“The situation in Northern Ireland is very different. The Northern Ireland Assembly will make those decisions – the elected government will make those decisions – they’re two diverse and different opinions.”

He went on to say: “I do not see at this moment in time anything changing whatsoever on the mainland”.

In a statement, the DUP said: “Social issues are devolved matters. We don’t seek to change Great British law on it or expect them to do so here in Northern Ireland.

“Our manifesto is focused on important bread and butter issues such as the economy, health service and education.”

Mr Shannon also gave an indication of what the DUP would prioritise in propping up Theresa May’s government.

Referring to one of the Tories’ most controversial policies of the campaign, he said of the proposals on social care: “That people should have to sell their homes to pay for their care? That’s an absolute disgrace. I certainly will not be agreeing to that.

“There’s other issues on the WASPI [pensions] women – that’s been a massive issue for us in the last government...There are many other issues on austerity and welfare reform where we as a party have said ‘no’ and have opposed.”

However, he stressed that although there are “many issues we disagree on” there were many in which the two parties are in harmony, such as on defence policy.

Mr Shannon said that his personal politics were “left of centre” and said that “some of the policies that the Conservative Party would espouse would not necessarily be ones that I would agree with”.

The Strangford MLA went on to say that on Brexit the Conservatives and the DUP were “united in our desire to leave” the EU but added: “We want to be compassionate in government, and I think it’s important to have that. If we can have that and maybe instil that in some of those policies, I think that would be a way forward.”

Meanwhile, the man whose court case led to homosexuality being decriminalised in Northern Ireland in the 1980s has said that the DUP’s approach to gay rights has radically changed over the years and that the rest of the UK should not fear the party having a role in government for that reason.

In an article for the Policy Exchange blog, Jeffrey Dudgeon, who is now a UUP councillor, said: “I have to say, working alongside the dozen DUP councillors in City Hall, that I hear and experience no anti-gay sentiment. They do draw the line by opposing equal marriage, as do all the churches here; yet I have listened to young DUP members who cannot comprehend how anyone would be opposed to gays marrying.”