DUP MLA Jim Wells has said that the late Ian Paisley, the former leader of the DUP, would be “aghast” at the decision to run an openly-gay candidate.
After it was announced on Friday, April 19, that the DUP, who are historically known for its hostility towards the LGBT+ community, would run the party’s first openly gay politician.
After the announcement, Ms Bennington said that she “regard(s) my private and family life as a matter for myself in the same way as everyone else”.
Mr Wells said the decision had been met with significant shock and hurt bu many members who feel betrayed by the party over the issue.
He went on to day there is discontent from the top of the DUP regarding this decision which he says is his lowest moment in a 44 year membership with the party and that it went against the values of the DUP.
Last summer, Arlene Foster became the first DUP leader to attend an LGBT+ event. Mrs Foster attended the event in Stormont during Pride month to “recognise the reality of diversity among our citizens”. However, Mrs Foster remains opposed to same-sex marriage, saying: “I believe I can hold to my principled position, particularly in reality to the definition of marriage, while respecting the diversity across our society and recognising that sexuality is a matter for the individual.”
Previous leaders of the party have also opposed same-sex marriage. Former DUP leader Ian Paisley led the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign in the late 1970s against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland. His son Ian Jnr, DUP MP for North Antrim, has publicly said he is “repulsed by gay and lesbianism”.
Ms Bennington has previously indicated that she is in favour of same-sex marriage through a post on her Facebook page.
Jim Wells also alleged that Ms Bennington had been favoured over more qualified candidates and that the decision to run an openly gay candidate was a “watershed decision”.
“Nobody in the party beyond headquarters staff was aware of this,” the South Down MLA said.
“I have had calls from every corner of Northern Ireland and further afield, from Londonderry, Kilkeel, Ballymena, Tyrone, all absolutely shocked on so many levels.”
“There was absolutely no consultation with anybody at any level. It came as a complete shock to all except the leadership.”
“This is a decision that totally undermines the ethos, tradition and history of the party,” Mr Wells said.
After it was announced that Ms Bennington would run, a DUP spokesperson said: “Alison is an excellent candidate and will make an excellent representative for the people of Glengormley. The party selects candidates on the basis of merit and we believe in equality of opportunity.”
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