Former National Trust manager Jim Wells has hit out at the heritage group over a letter supporting the prime minister’s Brexit plan.
The DUP MLA, who publicly renounced his membership of the group last year, said it has “lost the plot” when it comes to becoming embroiled in issues beyond its remit.
It comes after three umbrella groups representing voluntary organisations in NI issued a joint statement calling Theresa May’s embattled Brexit blueprints “the best option of avoiding a potentially disastrous no deal”.
They were the NI Council for Voluntary Action, the Rural Community Network, and Nature Matters NI.
Among the latter’s most prominent members is the National Trust, with about 90,000 members in NI.
Mr Wells – a vegetarian for 32 years, with a keen interest in environmental matters – said in the late 1980s he worked as a property manager at the Giant’s Causeway for the trust and then in PR and public affairs roles, up until 1998.
Among the reasons he left as a member last year was an incident at a Norfolk National Trust property, when the trust told staff to wear gay pride badges, or stay out of sight.
Mr Wells also yesterday hit out over reports the trust had ditched “BC” and “AD” naming conventions at a neolithic history site in Wiltshire, calling it part of a bid “to wipe out any vestige of Christianity from their country”.
On the Brexit letter, he said: “The National Trust do excellent work protecting our heritage and our countryside, and they should keep to what they do best, and not get involed in very complex, difficult, and indeed controversial political issues which are best left to public representatives.”
He said “a large proportion” of trust members would have voted to leave the EU.
“In fact I suspect, knowing the National Trust membership, I’d have thought the majority of them would’ve voted to leave!
“Because they tend to be conservatives in outlook, they tend to be older people, people who took early retirement, etc.
“The National Trust has simply lost the plot in terms of core values.”
The trust said: “The Nature Matters NI coalition is working together for a nature-friendly Brexit for Northern Ireland.
“The National Trust is a partner in this coalition. As the UK’s largest conservation charity, conservation is our core purpose and therefore it is very important that we stand up for nature – to ensure that in the future, nature thrives and people benefit from a well-managed natural environment.”