Belfast Telegraph

LGBT event more suited to a gay bar than hallowed halls of Stormont, claims Wells

Drag queen Electra speaks at Stormont
Drag queen Electra speaks at Stormont
DUP MLA Jim Wells
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

An LGBT event which caused controversy when it was held at Stormont last summer is returning for a second year.

Alternative Queer Ulster will be staged on Saturday, July 27, in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings.

The event is being sponsored by Green Party leader Clare Bailey and co-sponsored by Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon and UUP MLA John Stewart.

The 2018 event caused controversy after a video emerged of drag queen Electra La C*** using foul language in the Great Hall.

DUP MLA Jim Wells has requested a list of those who will be speaking, after taking offence at last year's content.

Organisers say Alternative Queer Ulster 2019 will invoke the spirit of the Stonewall riots to mark its 50th anniversary.

Belfast Green Party councillor Malachai O'Hara said that last year's event, while criticised by both Mr Wells and the TUV's Jim Allister, proved to be an "inspirational evening".

He said: "I'm delighted to launch Alternative Queer Ulster and bring the colour, spectacle and life experiences of queer people in Northern Ireland to Parliament Buildings.

"This is the only local event that provides a platform for queer people to talk about what it's like to be a queer person in Northern Ireland."

However Mr Wells, who does not speak for the DUP since having the whip withdrawn, said it would be more suitable in the Kremlin bar than at Stormont.

"The behaviour of one of the participants last year was absolutely disgraceful, and I would say that no matter who had organised the event, be it a soccer team or a society," he said.

Following last year's event Mr Wells filed a complaint with the Assembly Commission resulting in a review of its events policy, which he said is still ongoing.

Mr Wells said he is due to receive a list of speakers scheduled at the event by Tuesday.

"What I want to know is: has the person who caused the uproar last time been invited back again?" he added.

"The organisers must know that this behaviour brought great disrepute on them. I don't know what this group is or who they are, be it the Rainbow Coalition or what, I don't know.

"The point I'm making is that this wouldn't be allowed in Leinster House or Westminster, absolutely not.

"This might be more appropriate for a club or pub. It would have been more appropriate in the Kremlin bar in Belfast.

"We're talking about the parliament of Northern Ireland, we're talking about an important and historic building and this type of behaviour wouldn't be acceptable anywhere else, so why should it be acceptable in Northern Ireland?"

Mr Stewart, an East Antrim MLA, said he had no issues with co-sponsoring the event.

"I spoke to the Standards Committee and the commission representing those running the event and they assured me that all the criteria had been met and there was nothing to be concerned about," he said.

Last year's event was co-sponsored by DUP MLA Paula Bradley.

Afterwards the DUP said she was not acting on behalf of the party. It has no involvement with this year's event.

At the time the DUP said: "Paula Bradley co-sponsored the event without knowing many details about it.

"She was not acting on behalf of the party and has learned a salient lesson."

Alternative Queer Ulster is aimed at giving a voice to LGBT people, providing a platform for them to share stories, express opinion and document their experiences as part of Pride Week.

A promotion for the event states: "In 2018 we held the inaugural Alternative Queer Ulster. Twenty-two queer people descended the iconic steps of Stormont's Great Hall and gave voice to queer issues.

"This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the event will invoke the spirit of Stonewall.

"Each speaker will descend the iconic steps at Stormont and talk for three to five minutes on their issue."

It urges those people taking part in the event to "be respectful of different attitudes to coarse language" and to "respect the dignity of others".

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