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Ex-Health Minister Jim Wells to run in May elections

By David Young

Published 19/01/2016

Election: Jim Wells
Election: Jim Wells

Former Health Minister Jim Wells has announced plans to stand as a DUP candidate in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

If re-elected in May Mr Wells claimed he would become the Father of the House - the title given to the longest serving member at Stormont.

There had been speculation over whether Mr Wells would stand again after he became embroiled in controversy last year and his wife had a number of strokes.

"I have had the privilege of representing South Down at Stormont for 21 years and have also served as a councillor for 17 years," the 59-year-old MLA said yesterday.

"I was greatly encouraged to stand again by the unanimous support I received from the DUP's South Down Association and the many messages from right across the constituency urging me to put the name forward."

Mr Wells confirmed that he had submitted an application to be considered.

The final decision on who stands for the DUP in May's Assembly election in South Down rests with DUP party officers.

However, Mr Wells had a falling out with party officials last year after he accused them of deserting him in his hour of need.

The South Down MLA resigned as Health Minister last April after he was caught up in a storm following remarks he was alleged to have made during an election hustings event ahead of the Westminster poll.

Mr Wells had been wrongly accused of making homophobic remarks about gay marriage - but this was based on a video tape that was edited to distort what Mr Wells actually said. Later the Public Prosecution Service said he would not be prosecuted.

In an email to the party afterwards, Mr Wells accused the DUP of not helping him to clear his name and said he lost the confidence of party officers.

In a tough year for Mr Wells, his wife Grace also suffered a stroke at the family home last February. She subsequently suffered two more strokes in hospital, and Mr Wells was warned she may not survive - before she underwent surgery to repair a hole in her heart.

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