Wells made a blunder, but the door should stay open for his return

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

After a long time waiting in the wings to become health minister, Jim Wells’ tenure in the post was regrettably short-lived.

His decision to resign was understandable in light of the verbal exchange in Rathfriland with the daughter of a lesbian mother.
It was ill-advised for Mr Wells to get into such a dispute amid the controversy over his remarks at a hustings last week.

But it is to be hoped that Mr Wells returns to a senior position at Stormont, whenever he feels that his wife Grace is sufficiently well for him to think of such a return.

The hard-working DUP MLA was immersed in health policy long before he became minister. He has a more nuanced world view than you would expect from the reactionary caricature depicted by his opponents. His brand of Christianity includes a passionate commitment to both the environment and the well-being of the destitute in the Third World.

Of all the Stormont departments, health is most prone to populism, yet Mr Wells recently showed admirable firmness over moving acute stroke services to Craigavon.

There is little chance of Sinn Fein taking tough decisions over public money in any department, and there are not many unionists who show that inclination either. But Edwin Poots and Mr Wells demonstrated some awareness that saying yes to every demand over health would bankrupt the Province.

The drama surrounding the remarks that put Mr Wells in the spotlight has become hysterical. Unless something unknown happened at Rathfriland, it is absurd that the police have become involved. Indeed it is almost satirical to think that we have become so thin-skinned as a society that police are now summonsed to verbal altercations — something that has happened for as long as there have been elections.

Mr Wells’ original use of the word “abuse” in connection with same-sex parenting was a blunder. He could have argued his position more cleverly, but it will be harsh — and unjust — if this prevents his return to high-level politics.