There is a split developing in the ranks of the Ulster Unionist Party over the issue of same sex marriage.
A veteran Ulster Unionist politician Sydney Cairns (a former local councillor and Mayor of Craigavon) has called on sitting UUP Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie to resign his seat and allow the voters to have a say on his views.
Mr Beattie has been open in his support for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
Mr Cairns said Mr Beattie did not represent the views of his community or that of Waringstown Branch of the Ulster Unionist Party:
In a statement to the Lurgan Mail Mr Cairns said: “Doug Beattie does not represent the views of this community on same sex-marriage. Let him resign his seat and put his views to the public and let them decide if he represents their views.
“I don’t know what Bible he reads but it isn’t the one we read. He does not represent the values of the UUP. Let him resign and stand for re-election and see what the voters have to say.”
However, Mr Beattie countered: “Within the Ulster Unionist Party the issues around Same Sex Marriage (SSM) remains a matter of conscience. This has been the case for a number of years and I wholeheartedly support this approach.
“The party leader has made it clear this policy will not be changing.
“My support for SSM has been clear since I first entered politics. Since then I have been selected three times to run for both council and the assembly and each time my stance on SSM was made clear and each time the electorate did me the honour of voting me into office.
“I am clear it is the electorate who put me in office and as long as the electorate want me to represent them I shall.
“I will remain open to many diverse views on SSM but I will not be changing mine.”