An academic at Queen’s University has spoken of his regret after writing in an email that the DUP was to blame for the suicide of members of the gay community.
Dr Graham Ellison was confronted with the email on Thursday by DUP MLA Jim Wells.
The academic was telling the Stormont Justice Committee why he was opposed to a DUP bill which aims to tackle human trafficking by criminalising the purchase of sex. Dr Ellison believes state regulated brothels would be a much safer approach.
Writing to leading feminist Gunilla Ekberg, Dr Ellison had said: “Why have you hooked yourself up to that lot in the DUP? Have you any idea what they stand for in terms of social issues around women’s rights; women’s reproductive rights issues and so forth? In terms of gay and lesbian politics that I have an interest in, they are one of the most repressive and socially backward parties you could imagine.”
He added: “Who knows how many gays and lesbian young people in Northern Ireland have committed suicide because of this bloody party.
“I could also remember not long ago, five or six years, that the party, ie the DUP, was claiming that rape within marriage was impossible.”
Yesterday Dr Ellison told the News Letter he was “disappointed” that his email ended up with a third party.
“Really, my language was intemperate and if I was to do it again, I would do it differently,” he said.
“I wasn’t accusing individual members of the DUP of being homophobic. There is just a continual drip feed of comments which come from the party which contribute to a climate where young gay and lesbian people suffer from social stigma.
“I just see myself as a cultural unionist who wants politicians to take decisions not based on the Bible but on what is in the best interests of the country,” he added.
Mr Wells said the comments undermined the evidence Dr Ellison gave to the Stormont committee.
“After all, the proposer of this human trafficking bill is the chairman of the DUP, Lord Morrow,” he said.
“The cat was out of the bag regarding his views of the DUP; he is totally opposed to everything we stand for. He is taking our party’s position on family and marriage and linking it somehow to suicides in the gay community.
“He says the DUP believes it is impossible to commit rape in marriage but that is totally unreasonable. I have never heard any DUP member saying this.”