Belfast Telegraph

Local Election 2019

Gay DUP councillor Alison Bennington 'has not been gagged' from speaking to media

Alison Bennington celebrates after winning a council seat
Alison Bennington celebrates after winning a council seat

The DUP has denied suggestions its first openly gay elected representative has been "gagged" from speaking to the media.

Alison Bennington was elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council earlier this month, breaking the mould for a party that has been a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage and rooted in traditional Christian values.

Her initial selection as a candidate and subsequent election victory has been the subject of much media coverage, however she has not yet spoken publicly on the topic.

At the inaugural meeting of the new Antrim and Newtownabbey council on Monday night, Ms Bennington turned down a request to speak to the media.

Her fellow DUP councillor Philip Brett denied suggestions Ms Bennington has been "gagged".

"She hasn't been gagged. She has just been elected less than a week, it's a very stressful time for her," he told the BBC.

"It's not something I think she wants to do (talk to the media) at this stage."

Following her election victory earlier this month, Councillor Bennington did not speak to the media at the count centre, exiting Valley Leisure Centre promptly after being elected.

The DUP leadership's decision to select Alison Bennington to contest the election has been heavily criticised by several party members, most notably MLA Jim Wells.

Mr Wells claimed that party founder and former First Minister, Rev Ian Paisley, would have been be "aghast" at the decision.

He also claimed that after Ms Bennington's election he was contacted by many DUP voters who were "very concerned" about the development.

Party leader Arlene Foster has stated that, like all members, Alison Bennington has "signed up to the policies of the DUP".

The DUP has been contacted for a comment.

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