DUP’s Jim Wells might face punishment for criticising gay councillor

Jim Wells MLA walks through the Great Hall at Stormont

Northern Ireland’s former health minister Jim Wells could face punishment from the DUP after criticising the party’s first openly gay councillor.

The member of the Northern Ireland Assembly had attacked the party’s selection of Alison Bennington, who made history last week by becoming the first openly gay Democratic Unionist Party councillor.

Speaking to the media ahead of the election, Mr Wells claimed her election “fundamentally undermines the values and traditions of the party,” suggesting late founder Ian Paisley would be “aghast” at the news.

He said: “This marks a watershed change in DUP party policy and none of the members were consulted about it.

“Many thousands of people in Northern Ireland are depending on the DUP to hold the line on these moral issues. They feel very let down and very concerned about what has happened.”

Arlene Foster says she will deal with ‘bad behaviour’

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that Wells could now face action for his comments.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: “He should have been coming through the normal routes, through the party, if he had concerns about those issues.

“We will look at all of those issues after the election. We will be looking at vote management schemes, we will be looking at where we did very well and we will be looking at bad behaviour as well.”

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Leader Arlene Foster

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Leader Arlene Foster (Jack Taylor/Getty)

Asked whether he could be expelled from the DUP, she said: “I’m not going to pre-judge any process if it were to happen, I think it’s wrong to do that.

“You have to allow due process to take its course, so we will have to wait and see what happens.”

Wells has had the DUP whip withdrawn previously for criticising the party leadership to the media.

Jim Wells has anti-LGBT record

The MLA has a poor record on LGBT issues. As health minister he refused to lift the country’s permanent ban on blood donation by gay men.

The politician has also previously branded Belfast Pride parade “repugnant,” called for LGBT events “promoting alternative lifestyles” to be banned from the Northern Ireland Assembly buildings, and vowed to boycott Primark because of its LGBT collection.

In September, he attacked the provision of HIV-preventing drug treatments, claiming government should not fund treatment for people who “behave in a way that is taking huge risks.”

He added: “The whole premise of public health is to urge people to make wise lifestyle choices. Not to make unwise choices and then expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab to pay for recovery processes.”