An Ulster Unionist Party political broadcast featuring a broad cross-section of the Northern Ireland community could “alienate” traditional voters, claims the DUP MLA Jim Wells.
The broadcast released by the party on Thursday features Gaelic games and a same-sex couple.
Mr Wells said the broadcast was “proof” the UUP were “fixated with the Alliance Party vote”.
He also claimed it would be “very unlikely” someone who plays hurling or a same-sex couple “would be attracted to vote for the UUP”.
The broadcast did not feature speeches from the party leadership, instead a specially commissioned song played alongside scenes of a number of different people.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show, Mr Wells said his party would be concentrating on “the huge unionist vote that doesn’t turn out” and claimed he didn’t want to discourage that vote by “going down liberal values which many people in Northern Ireland don’t support”.
Mr Wells admitted at the start of the show he “hadn’t yet seen” the broadcast. While the South Down MLA had the whip removed meaning he does not represent the party in the Assembly, he remains a party member.
He said the inclusion of Gaelic sports as “your target audience is really a waste of time”.
“The vast majority of those who would partake in those sports who would be from the nationalist tradition, particularly Sinn Fein,” he added.
“Therefore, it is highly unlikely they are going to leap across the SDLP and Alliance and get to some form of unionism.
“DUP voters understand the nature of Gaelic sports, they are very much from the republican/nationalist tradition.
“I can’t see many people who would be playing hurling on a Sunday voting for the DUP or the UUP. What we really both have to aim for is the large number of unionists who don’t turn out at all.”
When asked his view on the same-sex couple in the party’s broadcast, Mr Wells argued that the UUP were going to “alienate the hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland who are church goers who believe in the traditional marriage”.
“The vast majority of people who vote for the DUP and vote for me would support traditional marriage values,” he said.
Responding on twitter, UUP Causeway councillor Darryl Wilson wrote: “Great to see so much positive feedback on our latest party political broadcast, this morning it has been fully reinforced that we are moving in the right direction by Jim Wells criticising every aspect of the video.”
In a statement Doug Beattie said: “The Ulster Unionist Party wants to offer a political home to anyone who believes that Northern Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom.
“We recognise that unionists do not fit neatly into a box, and consequently our unionism is open and inclusive and not confined to a particular religious or ethnic group, social class or sexual orientation.
“Others may disagree but we will not be distracted.”
A spokesperson for the party also asked if DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson agreed with Mr Wells’ comments.
In a statement, a DUP spokesperson said: “The party removed the whip from Mr Wells. He is not a spokesperson for the party."