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Jim Wells: PSNI probes gay abuse comments as DUP leader Peter Robinson stands by his man

First Minister says people should 'give him a break'

By Gary Fennelly

The PSNI is investigating a complaint against the DUP's Jim Wells following his gay marriage remarks in a Downpatrick hustings event on Thursday.

The DUP health minister has since apologised for the comments made in Downpatrick in which he appeared to say that children raised by gay parents were "far more likely" to be abused or neglected.

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police have received a complaint and officers are currently making enquiries."

Speaking at South Down election hustings hosted by the Down Recorder on Thursday Mr Wells said: "The facts show that certainly you don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship ... that child is far more likely to be abused or neglected ... in a non-stable marriage."

On Thursday night there were calls for Mr Wells to retract the remarks. The DUP minister initially issued a statement to say that he had been misrepresented, was not attacking the gay community and stood by his position on gay marriage.

On Friday morning Mr Wells issued a further statement to say that he accepted "one line of what I said caused offence and deep concern amongst members of the audience and beyond" and apologised.

He said: “The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for me personally. I had just come from a hospital visit and my focus was not on the debate. Indeed, during the event I received several messages from the hospital.

"I have listened to a recording of the relevant part of the debate. I accept that one line of what I said caused offence and deep concern amongst members of the audience and beyond.

"I regret having wrongly made that remark about abuse and I’m sorry those words were uttered. The comment did not reflect my view nor that of my party.

"Within seconds of realising this error, I asked the Chairman to let me back in and twice corrected my remarks before the debate moved on. This clarification has been confirmed by the journalists present at the event. Partial clips, spin and selective reporting regrettably miss this.

"The neglect or abuse of children is awful and happens in unstable relationships whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. I make no distinction between anyone who neglects or abuses a child regardless of their sexual orientation. I trust people will accept my explanation and my apology.”

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said he was "appalled" by the comments. Mr Eastwood said: "His track record on equality for the LGBT community is there for all to see.

"From describing gay pride as ‘repugnant’ to spending thousands of pounds of public money on defending the ban on gay men donating blood, he has allowed his own bias to infect his decision making and taint his judgment."

The Ulster Unionist Party said the comments were "absolutely appalling... and totally wrong".

"They were outrageous comments from Jim Wells that would attempt to link same sex partnerships with increased incidences of child abuse and neglect," a party statement said.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt told the BBC's Nolan Show: "Jim Wells needs to do more in deed and in action to prove that the real Jim Wells is reflected in this morning's statement rather than in yesterday's comment.

"If the real Jim Wells is reflected in yesterday's comment I do not have any time for Jim Wells to be the minister for health."

Alliance North Down MLA, Stephen Farry, said: ""There is absolutely no link between the incidence of abuse and neglect and the sexual orientation of parents. Nor indeed, if there is any difference between two parent and single parent households.

"Alliance will be looking to raise this matter with Assembly officials and ask them to investigate whether he has broken any Assembly rules.

"His credibility in office has been seriously undermined by these remarks."

DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said the party stood by Mr Wells. Mr Robinson said Mr Wells "accepted the remarks were offensive and that is why he has apologised".

"Anybody that looks at the comments will recognise that on a better day Jim would not have made such a comment. Everybody knows the pressure he has been under over the last number of months with his wife being ill in hospital and trying to keep going a very significant department in the Executive.

"He has immediately, as soon as he made the comments, he knew what he said was the wrong thing and he shouldn’t have said it. He got the attention of the chairman during the debate to try and rectify it without being pushed by anybody.

"He has put out a very sincere and fulsome apology and I think people should give him a break because of the special circumstances. He very rightly says it is neither his view nor is it the Democratic Unionist Party’s view.

"I reiterate that again today. That is not our view nor will it ever be our view."

The DUP has previously come under fire for its comments and policies in relation to LGBT issues.

In 2008 Mr Robinson said he endorsed his wife’s controversial views that gays are an 'abomination'. The First Minister told the BBC Northern Ireland Hearts and Minds programme: “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was the Almighty.

"This is the Scriptures and it is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won’t allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views."

Earlier that year the First Minister's wife Iris stated in Parliament that homosexuality is “viler” than child sex abuse.

Mrs Robinson then stated: “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

In 2007 Ian Paisley jnr told Hot Press magazine: "I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong.

"I think that those people harm themselves and - without caring about it - harm society. That doesn't mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do."

This week the Prime Minister David Cameron has said he "will never validate" the DUP's stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues.

The Tory leader said he “profoundly disagreed” with the party's policy on LGBT issues. The Prime Minister was being grilled by 10 potential young voters in BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat’s Live Lounge leader debate.

Mary Hassan, from Londonderry, told Mr Cameron that the DUP had done "significant and long-term damage” to the LGBT community in Northern Ireland."

Ms Hassan said: "They’ve consistently blocked motions for marriage equality and uphold a gay blood ban and currently are putting forward the conscience clause bill.

"Now, I’d like to know – is staying in office more important that the LGBT community in Northern Ireland?"

Mr Cameron responded: “I totally disagree with the DUP about this [LGBT] issue and nothing I ever do will go against the values I have about believing in equality and equal rights for gay and lesbian people and I’ve put that, as it were, on the line by supporting equal marriage.

“So I’m never going to change my views about that.”

The full interview can with David Cameron be heard to on BBC iPlayer.

Further reading

 

Health Minister Jim Wells apologises for comments linking gay marriage and abuse  

David Cameron: I will never validate the DUP's stance on gay rights and LGBT issues

Health Minister Jim Wells: Wife Grace is back from the brink  

Gay adoption: It is 'natural order' for a man and a woman to have a child, says Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots

Call for clarity after DUP man's 'make homosexuality illegal' comments

First Minister Peter Robinson backs wife's view that gays are an 'abomination'

Iris Robinson: gays more vile than child abusers  

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