Belfast Telegraph

Local Election 2019

DUP man says Ian Paisley will be 'turning in his grave' over gay candidate selection

Councillor John Finlay said society's morals were changing, but not for the better.

Letter: John Finlay
Letter: John Finlay

A DUP councillor has written to party officers to express his "deep concern" at the decision to select an openly gay candidate to run in the Northern Ireland local elections.

Alison Bennington became the DUP's first openly gay candidate to be elected when she won one of 14 DUP seats onto Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council last Friday.

For a full breakdown visit our Election hub and check out the results from each council: Antrim and Newtownabbey --- Ards and North Down --- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon --- Belfast --- Causeway Coast and Glens --- Derry and Strabane --- Fermanagh and Omagh --- Lisburn and Castlereagh --- Mid and East Antrim --- Mid Ulster --- Newry, Mourne and Down

In a letter from DUP councillor John Finlay to party officers, published by journalist Patricia Devlin, the Ballymoney representative said the party's founder Ian Paisley would be "turning in his grave" if he knew about the decision.

He said he was "very upset" at the way in which Ms Bennington was selected, as many within the party were "totally unaware" of the decision until it was announced at the launch of the DUP's local government manifesto.

For a full breakdown visit our Election hub and check out the results from each council: Antrim and Newtownabbey --- Ards and North Down --- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon --- Belfast --- Causeway Coast and Glens --- Derry and Strabane --- Fermanagh and Omagh --- Lisburn and Castlereagh --- Mid and East Antrim --- Mid Ulster --- Newry, Mourne and Down

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Alison Bennington

Mr Finlay said: "The candidate in question, Ms Alison Bennington, is openly gay. She has, apparently, previously indicated that she is in favour of same-sex marriage through a post on her Facebook page.

"This sends out, at best, confusing signals to our support base which has consistently welcomed our strong stand on LGBT issues.

"Indeed, the DUP is different from all other political parties, apart from the much smaller TUV, in its adherence to family values.

"That has drawn support from across the community divide, but that support is clearly now being placed in jeopardy by the foolish decision in selecting Alison Bennington."

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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)

Mr Finlay goes on to ask party officers if Ms Bennington now agrees with party policy on same-sex marriage.

He added: "It seems clear to me that we will lose votes on May 2 as a result of the Bennington decision. Our traditional support base cannot be taken for granted. I can feel the palpable sense of anger on the doorsteps and in various messages I have been receiving.

"I am particularly disappointed that party officers who are committed Christians have either supported Ms Bennington's candidature or remained ominously silent. I think some soul-searching is now required."

Mr Finlay said that while he accepted society's morals are changing the DUP needs to "continue to swim against the secular and godless tide."

He added: "That has always been the DUP's strength, and we compromise on these matters at our peril. Dr Paisley must be turning in his grave."

The DUP has not commented on the matter.

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