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Don't form a lynch mob against Jim Wells, DUP leader urges

By Noel McAdam

First Minister Peter Robinson has warned against a political "lynch mob" ganging up on Jim Wells.

Under attack at Question Time in the Assembly following the dramatic resignation of the Health Minister - revealed in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday - the DUP leader urged other parties not to be "disproportionate" in their reactions.

"I ask people not to take on the characteristic of a lynch mob on these matters," he said.

Mr Robinson said Mr Wells had made his controversial comments after weeks of carrying out his departmental duties by day and sitting by his wife's bedside at night as she fought for her life.

As this paper has disclosed in recent weeks, Mr Wells' wife Grace suffered two strokes and went through major heart surgery, and will now need long-term care.

But Mr Robinson said Mr Wells had made a statement of clarification at the Down Recorder Hustings Event at which he said children brought up by same sex couples were more likely to suffer abuse and neglect.

He also issued "an apology, something that we have not had from others for the crimes that they have committed in this society," Mr Robinson added.

"On foot of that, he recognised that the burden he carries at present is so great he needs to take a break from front-line public life."

Quizzed by Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan and Rosaleen McCorley, Mr Robinson reiterated that Mr Wells' remarks were not DUP policy. "The minister has apologised and indicated that the facts, as he related them, were inaccurate," he said. "I immediately indicated that they were not the views of the party now and nor would they ever be."

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay said, however: "This is the first time a politician has been forced to resign in the north because of the strength of public opinion against homophobic remarks. I think that is a big change for us as a society. I believe the public recognised that it's wrong, simply wrong, to speak about gay people in that way."

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