DUP and academic in Stormont clash over gay suicides
An academic's criticism of a DUP-sponsored Bill banning prostitution is motivated by his prejudice against the party, it has been claimed.
The DUP said it has made a formal complaint against Dr Graham Ellison over an email in which he allegedly claims the party may have been responsible for gay and lesbian young people killing themselves.
The alleged contents of the email were quoted in a stormy exchange between Dr Ellison, a post-graduate research co-ordinator at Queen's University Belfast, and DUP MLA Jim Wells during a meeting of Stormont's justice committee.
Dr Ellison had been giving evidence on a Bill sponsored by the DUP's Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Lord Morrow which would make it a criminal offence to pay for sex.
Mr Wells said he had seen an email from Dr Ellison to Gunilla Ekberg, an ex-special adviser with the Swedish Government, who had previously given evidence to the committee.
Mr Wells quoted from the email, sent on September 13 last year: "Why have you hooked yourself up to that lot in the DUP? Have you any idea what they stand for in terms of social issues around women's rights generally, women's reproductive rights, gay and lesbian issues and so forth?
"In terms of gay and lesbian politics that I have an interest in, they are one of the most repressive and socially backward parties you could imagine."
Quoting again from the email, Mr Wells added: "Who knows how many gay and lesbian young people in Northern Ireland have committed suicide because of this bloody party.
"I can also remember not long ago, five or six years, that the party – ie the DUP – was claiming that rape within marriage was impossible."
Mr Wells put it to Dr Ellison that his opposition to a clause in the Bill banning prostitution was because of his prejudice against the DUP.
Dr Ellison replied: "Actually, it is nothing of the sort."
Dr Ellison also said he was not convinced the Trafficking Bill was "in the best interests of the country".
It is understood that prior to yesterday's meeting a solicitor's letter was received by the committee warning MLAs not to raise certain issues.