An SDLP figure who suggested government ministers should not make decisions influenced by their faith has refused to be drawn on how such a situation would play out in the case of a Catholic education minister.
Fearghal McKinney MLA had made his suggestion at a meeting on Thursday, following the resignation of health minister Jim Wells after the DUP MLA made remarks linking gay marriage to child abuse (remarks he later retracted).
Mr McKinney said at a hustings in his South Belfast constituency: “So [Mr Wells] brought a view, based upon a religious view, and he took a decision to reflect that and is no longer in his post.
“I think what should happen in these cases is that we should have a mechanism which says, ‘I’m the health minister; I believe this; I’m entitled to say this, but when it comes to these types of decisions I will remove myself because I’ve a vested interest. I believe that my view should be my view ...but I shouldn’t be making decisions which impact on the lives of others, so therefore I will remove myself from the decision-making process.’”
In light of that suggestion, the News Letter asked Mr McKinney if he thought, for example, a Catholic education minister should not make decisions on Catholic education.
“I don’t even think we should go to imaginary positions, or to envisage other circumstances,” he said.
“The real circumstances here are around Jim Wells, and the decision that he made and the way he articulated things.”
Asked if he feels the idea of declaring a religious interest should apply across the board to anyone, in any office, of any religion, he said: “Where they are forcing their narrower view on other people.”
However, he said it was not helpful to invent hypothetical sets of circumstances.
He told the News Letter: “Let’s just deal with the reality – which is Jim’s set of circumstances.”