Belfast Telegraph

DUP AGM clash with PinkNews Stormont event means no member can attend, says party

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking at a PinkNews LGBT event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont in August 2018. (Brian Lawless/PA)
DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking at a PinkNews LGBT event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont in August 2018. (Brian Lawless/PA)

DUP leader Arlene Foster or anyone from her party will not be able to attend an LGBT event at Stormont as it clashes with her party's annual general meeting.

The Irish News reports the PinkNews event on Thursday at Stormont clashes with the party event.

The paper reports an invite was sent to the party at the beginning of the year and representatives of the four other parties are expected to attend.

"Mrs Foster has a long-standing engagement on Thursday evening, therefore will not be able to attend the Summer Reception this year. It is the party's Annual General Meeting," a DUP spokesman said saying "it will not he possible for a representative to attend".

"She has sent her apologies and best wishes to the organisers."

Arlene Foster attended and spoke at the event last year.

She urged members of the LGBT community to respect her right to oppose same-sex marriage saying she did not define anyone by their sexuality.

"I wanted to acknowledge the contribution of the LGBT community in Northern Ireland and to recognise the reality of diversity among our citizens," she told those in attendance.

“I wanted to recognise that some of our brightest and best in this country are part of the LGBT community.

“I wanted to send a clear message from this event, that we are all someone’s child and we are all a valued part of this wonderful place we call home.”

A majority of MLAs backed the introduction of same-sex marriage the last time it was debated on the floor of the Assembly before the institutions collapsed over two years ago, but the use of the petition of concern (PoC) by the DUP rendered that irrelevant.

The petition, which is a peace-process construct designed to protect minority views in a post-conflict society, means a proposal can only be passed in the Assembly if a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalist MLAs support it, rather than a straightforward majority head count.

While the DUP does not have the electoral strength to deploy a petition on its own – 30 MLA signatures are required – it could join forces with other social conservative members to trigger one again if power sharing is restored.

Earlier this year the party's first openly gay politician was elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

It has led to internal tensions in the party with some members quiting. MLA Jim Wells said party the late Ian Paisley would be "aghast" at the move.

Arlene Foster said she was delighted to see Alison Bennington's election.

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