Openly gay MLA Andrew Muir accuses Jim Wells of 'homophobic harassment'

Alliance Party MLA, Andrew Muir, has accused former health minister and incumbent MLA, Jim Wells, of "homophobic harassment".

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 12:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 12:42 pm

Mr. Muir explained to the Assembly Speaker, Alex Maskey, that he received "direct correspondence" from Mr. Wells on Monday.

The details of the exchange between Mr. Wells and Mr. Muir are not known but are believed to be in reference to comments made by Mr. Maskey about Mr. Wells' behaviour during last week's gay conversion therapy debate.

Towards the end of last week's debate Mr. Wells repeated asked Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey and other MLAs, to give way and so he could ask a question.

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Minister Hargey and all other MLAs repeatedly declined Mr. Wells' request.

Speaker Maskey addressed Mr. Wells' conduct in the Assembly on Monday accusing him of making "spurious points of order" and explained how his actions were "detrimental to the ability of the Assembly to have a constructive debate".

"Yesterday you made a ruling concerning the conduct of Mr. Wells during the debate last Tuesday," said Mr. Muir on Tuesday morning.

"Since then, I have received direct correspondence from Mr. Wells challenging the authority of that ruling.

Jim Wells, MLA.

"I have been about politics for many years and can take the cut and thrust of debate, and I don't say this easily, but what I am seeing now is homophobic harassment from Mr. Wells and I wish you to consider this matter," added Mr. Muir.

Speaker Maskey said Mr. Wells issued a press statement on Monday morning referring to the gay conversion therapy debate.

Speaker Maskey said it was "totally unclear" why a statement intended for journalists was also sent to Mr. Muir and confirmed he would consider the matter and "address it in due course".

Responding to the allegation of "homophobic harassment" Mr. Wells rubbished Mr. Muir's accusation and explained why he felt he had to repeatedly ask for a chance to speak during last week's debate.

"Absolute nonsense," said Mr. Wells of the allegation of "homophobic abuse".

"I was trying to get the Minister or the proposers of the conversion therapy motion to answer one simple, clear question - 'would the legislation that would ban conversation therapy include strong protections for clergy who give advice to church members struggling with same sex attraction?'.

"They were all aware what I wanted to ask that question and scared to let me in to put it to them."

Mr. Wells added: "We now have a Minister who comes into the chamber, gets her head down and reads from a prepared text and refuses to answer one question on the legislation she proposes to introduce.

"If she can't defend such a radical change she should not be a minister."

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