DUP founder Ian Paisley’s election agent and brother-in-law condemns party’s gay candidate

The Rev James Beggs taking part in the late Ian Paisley's memorial service in the Ulster Hall
The Rev James Beggs taking part in the late Ian Paisley's memorial service in the Ulster Hall

The Free Presbyterian minister who for decades was DUP founder Ian Paisley’s election agent and close personal friend has sharply criticised the DUP for selecting an openly gay candidate.

The Rev James Beggs, who is married to Dr Paisley’s sister Margaret, said that the DUP’s choice of Alison Bennington as a council candidate in Glengormley was “contrary to the word of God”.

The 84-year-old retired minister told the Irish News that he was “most unhappy” and “totally opposed” to the decision.

Ms Bennington was elected earlier this month and has been backed by senior party figures – including prominent Free Presbyterian members of the DUP.

The Rev Beggs, a senior Free Presbyterian figure who taught theology in the denomination’s college where its ministers are trained, said of Ms Bennington’s candidature: “I approach it from a biblical standpoint. I do not endorse it in any way.

“This decision to run somebody LGBT, I’m totally opposed to that.

“The word of God outlines the fact that it is against homosexuality – that’s quite clear from scripture.”

He added: “I am most unhappy with the decision the DUP have taken. I believe it is contrary to the word of God.

“That is how I see it from Christian scripture, but I’m making no more comment.”

Ms Bennington has declined multiple requests from journalists to be interviewed but the DUP has insisted that she supports all its policies – including its opposition to same-sex marriage.

DUP veterans Jim Wells, John Carson and John Finlay have publicly criticised her selection for a party which once campaigned to “save Ulster from sodomy”. But the party has faced down the internal criticism, with MP Gavin Robinson describing her election as “a good news story”.