DUP councillor Alison Bennington, who caught public attention by being the notedly homophobic party’s first openly LGBT+ politician, has towed the party line by voting against the rainbow flag being flown over council buildings.
The Alliance Party had brought forward a motion to fly the rainbow flag over the Mossley Mill and Antrim Civic Centre during Pride. While the motion was eventually passed, it was contested by the LGBT+ DUP councillor and all of her fellow party members.
SDLP councillor Thomas Burns told the News Letter: “It was a stormy debate. The Alliance motion was a good motion and it should have gone through on the nod, no problems. The first thing about it was the DUP put on an amendment to the motion that would have meant the flag wouldn’t fly.
“That went to a vote and it was a tie, but the mayor (the DUP’s John Smyth) decided not to use his casting vote. It went back to the original motion. The biggest surprise of the whole lot was Alison Bennington – everybody was watching her like a hawk to see what she would do but she voted with the DUP, along party lines. She never opened her mouth, she never spoke.”
When questioned by the media afterwards, Bennington declined to admit what way she had voted. Bennington has previously refused to talk to the media, leading to one of her colleagues, DUP councillor Philip Brett, stressing she had not been “gagged” by the party.
At the time of Bennington’s election, DUP MLA Jim Wells said her candidacy was a “betrayal” and his lowest moment in a 44-year membership with the party as it went against the values of the DUP.
Arlene Foster at the time said: “It sends out a message that the DUP is open to everyone who signs up to the policies of the Democratic Unionist Party, as Alison did.
“There are people who are uncomfortable, I think it would be right to acknowledge that, but as I indicated last week, our policy in relation to same-sex marriage has not changed.”
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