Wells: DUP risks ‘alienating traditional base’ with LGBTQ+ issues

Jim Wells has issued a warning to the party he has belonged to 46 years: do not alienate our conservative base over gay, transgender, and non-binary matters.

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 3:07 pm
Jeffrey Donaldson with Paula Bradley

He was speaking to the News Letter after party leader Jeffrey Donaldson and deputy Paula Bradley apologised for past “hurtful” language in relation to what activists now call the “LGBTQIA+ community” (standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer / questioning, intersex, asexual, and more).

The issue came to the fore on Thursday night, when Ms Bradley attended an online gathering organised by the website Pink News to discuss LGBTQIA+ matters.

(For details on that, click here)

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It was broadcast via Facebook, hosted by John O’Doherty (director of publicly-funded pressure group the Rainbow Project), and sponsored by corporate finance giant Citigroup.

At the end of it Ms Bradley was asked by Mr O’Doherty: “Do you think there’d ever be a time that the DUP would – and do you think they should – apologise for the hurt and harm caused to LGBTQIA+ people over the last 50 years?”.

He did not give specific examples of such “harmful” quotes, or who said them, and nor did Ms Bradley.

But she replied: “I’m not going to defend some of the things that have been said over the years, because they have been absolutely atrocious. They’ve been shocking.

“I can certainly say I apologise for what others have said and done in the past because I do think that there has been some very hurtful comments.”

And on the Nolan Show yesterday, Sir Jeffrey said: “There’s no doubt that in the past things have been said that shouldn’t have been said, across a whole range of issues, and not just by the DUP...

“Where we have said things that’ve hurt others then it’s right we say sorry for that. Sorry needn’t be the hardest word.”

Mr Wells told the News Letter: “I will never apologise for anything I’ve said in this particular field, because I believe my comments have always been measured and accurate and have been in keeping ,with the views of tens of thousands of people in Northern Ireland.”

He said that now gay marriage has been introduced “a very small, very militant element” are moving on to “a new field of battle” by pursuing campaigns about things like transgenderism.

“It’s just going to go on and on and on and disrupt the basic building blocks of society,” he said, adding that an “overwhelming” majority of party members share his stance.

Mr Wells (who has been MLA for South Down since 1998) added: “We run the risk of alienating our traditional base, which is church-going, and either feels very strongly about this issue, or doesn’t think about it at all.

“There’s many people at church on Sunday morning and who have strong views on this and they’re relying on the DUP to articulate their views.

“Secondly, what’s absolutely clear is that anybody who feels strongly about gay marriage or transgender issues is not going to leapfrog over Alliance, SF, the Greens, and the SDLP and vote for the DUP.

“Therefore we’re in danger of alienating our traditional strong voter base to try and win over a tiny, tiny minority who’ll never vote for us anyhow.”

Mr Wells does not currently have the DUP whip, which was taken from him in 2018 after he publicly claimed the party had reneged on promises to re-instate him as minister (though he officially remains a DUP MLA).

Read more on these topics from the News Letter, the only outlet in Northern Ireland covering these issues in detail:

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