Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

I won't go to GAA games and gay events, says Tom Elliott

Ulster Unionist Assembly member Tom Elliott has criticised Stormont education minister Caitriona Ruane for funding Irish-medium schools

Ulster Unionist leadership hopeful Tom Elliott has told party members that he will not attend GAA games or gay pride parades.

Mr Elliott made the comments while campaigning for the UUP's top post.

He confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph: “I have indicated at party meetings that whilst some members of our party would go to gay pride marches or GAA|matches, I wouldn't go.

“That's a personal issue, but I hold no issue with any of those who would.”

He also stated: “It was just me saying that I never have and it's certainly not my intention to go to any of them.”

Mr Elliott's remarks will be widely regarded as a reference to his more liberal UUP leadership race opponent Basil McCrea.

They will reinforce the view that the contest is between a|traditionalist and a moderniser.

Mr McCrea has spoken in the Assembly about attending a GAA match. He also joined local |politicians who took part in the 2008 gay pride parade in Belfast.

Its turnout was boosted by anger over outbursts by then DUP MP Iris Robinson, describing|homosexuality as an|“abomination”. Mr Elliott's campaign has the backing of most of the senior|figures of the party, including the bulk of its Assembly grouping.

An Orangeman and former part-time UDR member, he|supports co-operation with the DUP but not a merger between the two parties

Mr McCrea is hoping a|grassroots revolt will secure him the leadership. The decision will be taken in a vote open of all members on September 22.

Gay rights was one of the many issues that caused trouble for the joint UUP-Tory General Election campaign this year.

Antrim Ulster Unionist Mayor Adrian Watson was rejected as a candidate, after controversy over remarks he made in 2006,|suggesting gay couples would not be welcome in his family's bed and breakfast business.

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