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Wells: LGBT people should be saying sorry to me for abuse

Defiant DUP MLA sparks fresh row as he refuses to echo words of the party’s top two

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Comments: Jim Wells. Credit: Peter Morrison

Comments: Jim Wells. Credit: Peter Morrison

DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

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Comments: Jim Wells. Credit: Peter Morrison

DUP MLA Jim Wells was under fire last night for saying that he has nothing to apologise for to the LGBT community — and instead that they should apologise to him.

Mr Wells said he had been subject to years of “hurtful” comments, which you could “paper a wall” with.

He also played down an apology from party colleague Paula Bradley, who he said was speaking “in her capacity as an MLA”.

South Down MLA Wells, who remains without the party whip, having lost it three years ago for speaking out against the then party leadership, also argued that the views of the DUP are “reflective of Northern Ireland”.

“By standing for the views of many hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland on the traditional family values and marriage, that may cause hurt, but I am not going to apologise for that.”

It came as new DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said yesterday it was “right to apologise” over comments made in the past about the LGBT community.

On Thursday deputy leader Ms Bradley said some of the things said by party members over the past 50 years had been “absolutely atrocious”. She made the comments while taking part in a panel with other political leaders for the PinkNews Virtual Belfast Reception.

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“I certainly couldn’t stand by many of those comments, in fact all of those comments,” she said.

"Because I know the hurt that they caused people and I know that fed into the hatred that some people have had to endure in their life and I think that’s absolutely wrong.”

The apologies from the DUP’s top two were welcomed by LGBT groups.

The Rainbow Project said it hoped Mr Donaldson will meet with the group and other activists in the future.

Director John O’Doherty said: “We welcome the apologies by Paula Bradley and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

"We hope that these comments by their new leaders will be the first step towards significant change within the DUP.

“The Northern Ireland Assembly has consistently failed to ensure equality and equity for the LGBTQIA+ community and the DUP have been pointed to as the barrier to change.

“We are therefore, once again, seeking to establish a two-way respectful engagement with Democratic Unionist Party on these issues and more.

“We hope that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson will meet with the LGBTQIA+ community and show leadership where it has been sadly lacking.”

His Rainbow Project colleague Aisling Twomey told the Belfast Telegraph: “It is imperative that those within the DUP, and particularly its leadership, reflect upon its actions and rhetoric and seek to address and take accountability for the decades of trauma they have inflicted against our community.

"For over 50 years the DUP has stood in opposition and actively sought to stop every step towards LGBTQI+ equality, whether it be decriminalisation, age of consent or equal marriage.”

The South Down MLA faced strong criticism over his call for an apology from the LGBT community to him.

Belfast Green councillor Anthony Flynn said last night: “The Queer community in Northern Ireland owes the likes of Jim Wells absolutely nothing.”

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the controversy posed another serious internal problem for the DUP.

"The importance is whether, as deputy leader, Paula will be backed by the party or whether Jim will be allowed to continue as before,” the Alliance leader tweeted.

“It matters to those of us who want to see progress.”

However, Mr Wells claimed: “He [Sir Jeffrey Donaldson] was saying on a more general level, if DUP members have said anything that has caused offence.

“The vast majority of comments made by the public representatives of the DUP on this issue have been measured, they have been sensible and they have been reflective of the large number of views of people in Northern Ireland.”​​​​​​​

Last night the Ulster Unionist Party said: “This year marks 40 years since Jeffrey Dudgeon’s landmark case at Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights, which resulted in the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland.

"It’s astonishing that the DUP are in such a twist over the LGBT community after all this time. Times have changed, they should move on.”

Gay rights campaigner Mr Dudgeon later became an UUP councillor in Belfast.

In the 1970s, DUP founder the Rev Ian Paisley led a campaign to ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’.


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