Jim Wells: DUP councillor should face discipline over Pride vote

Jim Wells MLA
Jim Wells MLA

The DUP must discipline an Ards and North Down councillor who voted against his party colleagues in support of a proposal to light up Ards Town Hall in the rainbow colours of the Pride movement, a veteran MLA has said.

South Down representative Jim Wells, who was himself disciplined by the DUP earlier this year after he launched a stinging attack on the party’s leadership, described the actions of Councillor Tom Smith as “totally wrong”.

Cllr Tom Smith

Cllr Tom Smith

At a meeting of the council on Wednesday evening, Cllr Smith urged members to show their support for the borough’s LGBT community.

But despite his impassioned plea, a DUP amendment scuppering the proposal to light up the town hall in the Pride colours for one day each August was passed by 20 votes to 16.

Cllr Smith, who voted against his party colleagues on the issue at the committee stage and at full council, said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the outcome.

Criticising the rebel councillor’s actions, Mr Wells commented: “I assume there was a corporate decision taken by the 18 DUP councillors in North Down and Ards to take a certain stance on this issue and he clearly would have been aware of that stance. But he decided both at the committee and the full meeting of council to not only vote against that stance, but to speak against policy.

“You have the option in these situations of abstaining, but he took the decision to not only vote against but to speak very clearly against the amendment.

“He very clearly stepped out of line and I think the normal party discipline should apply.”

Stressing that he couldn’t predict the outcome of any potential disciplinary procedure, Mr Wells said Cllr Smith could face various sanctions, ranging from removal of the party whip to a period of suspension or even expulsion.

Asked if he would like to respond to Mr Wells’ comments, Cllr Smith said he had “no comment to make”.

The News Letter contacted a number of Cllr Smith’s Ards and North Down DUP colleagues, all of whom told us to contact the party press office.

The DUP said they wouldn’t be commenting on the matter.