Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader says party will consider Jim Wells’ comments about gay councillor

Alison Bennington became the party’s first openly-gay councillor in Northern Ireland.

DUP leader Arlene Foster at the count centre for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Pic: Cate McCurry/PA Wire
DUP leader Arlene Foster at the count centre for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. Pic: Cate McCurry/PA Wire
Counting of ballots begins at Coleraine Leisure centre (Niall Carson/PA)

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party said she will consider comments made by former health minister Jim Wells about the party’s first openly gay councillor in Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster said her party will look at a number of issues including “bad behaviour” by party members after the Northern Ireland local elections have concluded.

It comes after Mr Wells said his former leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, would be “aghast” at the decision to run gay DUP candidate Alison Bennington.

The DUP’s founder once led a campaign to, in his words, “Save Ulster from Sodomy” and prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Mrs Foster said Mr Wells should not have made those comments to the media.

“(Jim) should have been coming through the normal routes, through the party, if he had concerns about those issues,” she said.

“We will look at all of those issues after the election. We will be looking a vote management schemes, we will be looking at where we did very well and we will be looking at bad behaviour as well.”

Independent republican councillor Gary Donnelly topped the poll in a Moor DEA of Derry City and Strabane District Council.

He is considered to be one of the public faces of the dissident republicanism in Northern Ireland.

Mr Donnelly’s election comes just weeks after dissident republicans murdered journalist Lyra McKee during disturbances in Londonderry.

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The DUP’s first openly gay candidate, Alison Bennington, who has won a seat at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council (Dave Pettard/PA)

It sparked outrage across the world as well as a swell of criticism for dissident republican terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Mr Donnelly topped the poll in The Moor DEA with 1,374 first-preference votes, just over the quota of 1,292 votes.

Counting continues across Northern Ireland following the local government elections.

Around a third of the 462 seats will be filled today before the final make-up of the region’s 11 councils can be revealed.

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Counting of ballots at Coleraine Leisure centre in County Londonderry (Niall Carson/PA)

The first day of the count saw gains for the DUP and the centralist Alliance Party, while the Ulster Unionists suffered some losses.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party had had a very good day.

“I am delighted with some of our results west of the Bann, we are taking extra new seats in places where we haven’t done before, and pleased that a lot of our sitting councillors have been returned, but we have also got some very good fresh blood coming through,” he said.

At the start of Saturday’s count, the DUP were leading the pack with 81 seats, ahead of Sinn Fein on 74, the UUP on 57, the SDLP on 42 and Alliance on 36.

Later, a former Sinn Fein MP who resigned after angering relatives of 10 Protestants shot dead in a sectarian massacre will discover later whether he has won a council seat.

Barry McElduff is standing for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in the local government poll.

He stepped down last year after an outcry prompted by him posting a video of himself balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head.

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Former West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff will find out whether he has been elected to Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. (Niall Carson/PA)

It was put on his Twitter account on the anniversary of the Kingsmills atrocity.

Ten workmen were shot dead by republicans in Co Armagh on January 5 1976.

The contest was dominated by early gains in the greater Belfast area for the Alliance Party and Green Party, solid performances from Sinn Fein and the DUP and a slump in support for the Ulster Unionists.

Of the smaller parties, the Progressive Unionists suffered a blow in Belfast with the loss of Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston while People Before Profit gained a seat with Fiona Ferguson.

The son of a prison officer shot dead by dissident republicans in 2012 was also elected for the DUP.

Kyle Black’s father David died following a motorway drive-by shooting.

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Kyle Black, son of murdered prison officer David Black, celebrating with his girlfriend Adele Bradley, after winning a council seat in Mid Ulster (Handout/PA)

In Ards and North Down Council, Tom Smith, deselected as a DUP councillor after he voted to light up a council building in rainbow colours, retained his seat as an independent.

In Londonderry in the far west, the nationalist SDLP’s Mary Durkan was elected. The barrister is the sister of Stormont Assembly member Mark H Durkan.

The north-west city also saw Anne McCloskey become the first candidate from the anti-abortion all-Ireland Aontu party to be elected.

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Counting in the local government elections at Belfast City Hall (Rebecca Black/PA)

In Belfast, Ulster Unionist councillor Sonia Copeland dedicated her victory to community worker, Ian Ogle, who was stabbed to death on a street in East Belfast in January.

In Antrim and Newtownabbey a former DUP mayor was returned with an increased vote following his recent conviction for drink-driving.

Thomas Hogg served a five-month suspension from the council earlier this year.

He is one of two councillors to be re-elected after a drink-driving conviction.

Alliance councillor Patrick Brown topped the poll at the Rowallane district electoral area in the Newry, Mourne and Down council.

He was caught riding his motorbike while under the influence of alcohol in 2017.

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DUP councillor Thomas Hogg who was convicted of drink-driving has won back his council seat with an increased vote (Rebecca Black/PA)

Mr Hogg said: “I am overwhelmed to have been elected with 999 votes – my largest ever.”

The council election is being conducted by single transferable vote, a proportional representation system.

A fresh bid to restore Stormont’s moribund powersharing institutions is to begin next week following the fatal shooting of journalist Lyra McKee, 29, by dissident republicans in Londonderry in April.

The last Democratic Unionist/Sinn Fein-led powersharing coalition imploded amid a row about a botched renewable energy scheme.

The rift between the erstwhile partners-in-government subsequently widened to take in disputes over the Irish language, same-sex marriage and the legacy of the Troubles.

A total of 819 candidates are standing for 462 available seats across 11 council areas in Northern Ireland.

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