‘Shocking’ past comments criticised by MLA at PinkNews event
DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley has apologised for her party’s “atrocious” track record on gay rights issues.
Ms Bradley made the comments last night while taking part in a panel with other political leaders for the PinkNews Virtual Belfast Reception.
During the wide ranging debate — which also covered issues such as sex education in schools and gay conversion therapy — Ms Bradley was asked by the panel chair, John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project, if the DUP should apologise for “the hurt and harm caused to LGBTQ+ over the past 50 years”.
She replied: “I am not going to defend some of the things that have been said over the years because they have been absolutely atrocious, they have been shocking.
“I certainly couldn’t stand by many of those comments, in fact all of those comments, because I know the hurt that they caused people and I know that fed into the hatred that some people have had to endure in their life and I think that’s absolutely wrong.”
She continued: “I think that the vast majority of people who have made those comments are no longer there and the ones that are there have said they have learned their lessons, that their language at times has not been right.
“It’s something that I have brought up on numerous occasions in my own party… because the language that we use as elected representatives has an impact in wider society.
“I can certainly say that I can apologise for what others have said and done in the past because I do think there has been some very hurtful comments and some language that really should not have been used.”
Ms Bradley was also questioned about a Stormont vote earlier this year to ban gay conversion therapy.
While supporting a ban, the DUP was criticised for a defeated amendment that sought to protect “legitimate religious activities” and removing a line that said it was wrong to view the LGBT+ community as needing a “fix or cure”.
She said: “I think on reflection it was wrong to remove that line out of there, as a party we absolutely agree that conversion therapy should be banned.
“Albeit as a party we still believe there should be certain protections for religious freedom, whether that is prayer or whatever that might look like.
“Certainly I have spoken to people who have been through that journey and that journey affected them greatly throughout their life… it’s absolutely wrong.”
Alliance Party leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I think that what Paula has said this evening is a real step change, not for Paula, but the party that she represents.
"I know it doesn’t represent everybody in the party but I still think the fact that you’re representing the party says a lot about how things are changing.”
Ms Bradley added: “I probably have gone further than some of my party colleagues would have liked but you know that’s me, I do that all the time anyway.”
SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood also praised Ms Bradley.
"Changing a political party is not easy I can tell you but it’s important,” he said.