Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Reputation clear, Jim Wells has the right to return to politics

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 17/10/2015

Jim Wells
Jim Wells

As he says himself, it has been a horrific six months in the life of Jim Wells, the former Health Minister. He has seen his beloved wife's health deteriorate to a perilous state and was forced to resign from the Executive after being pilloried for allegedly making anti-gay remarks at a pre-election hustings. Little wonder that he describes that period as a personal hell.

He always denied the allegations made against him and now he has been vindicated by the decision of the Public Prosecution Service not to prosecute him. The PPS decided there was insufficient evidence to justify bringing charges against him.

A 30-second video clip which appeared to show him uttering anti gay remarks went viral in April and was broadcast around the world. The furore caused by the video left him with little option but to resign his ministerial post, but all along he was innocent. The PPS studied an eight minute long transcript of his comments at the hustings event and, taking all the remarks in their proper context, came to its conclusion.

He has every right to feel bitter about the whole incident, as he had to leave a job which was the pinnacle of his political career in virtual disgrace. But the whole furore was based on a lie.

At the time this newspaper pointed out that Mr Wells was under severe personal pressure because of the state of his wife's health. Grace had suffered two strokes and underwent major heart surgery.

To have his reputation tarnished so gravely on top of his domestic problems no doubt plunged him into the depths of despair. Now his reputation is restored and there is no reason why he should not again enter frontline politics.

He loved his job as Minister of Health - and while his personal beliefs could cause him some problems in that role, he certainly has a first-hand insight into the workings of the Health Service and the astonishing level of care so often provided in it.

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