Some opposition within DUP over election of party’s first gay candidate
Alison Bennington was elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
The DUP’s first openly gay elected candidate faced opposition from some within her own party.
Alison Bennington’s triumph in the local government elections rewarded her local party’s support but also attracted the criticism of its sidelined former health minister and staunch Christian Jim Wells.
Another party colleague said her nomination was “not in my name”.
Hugs of congratulations followed news of her elevation to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
She attracted 1,053 votes as part of her campaign for the pro-union and Christian party and praised her supporters’ “good, hard work and good teamwork”.
Ms Bennington declined to speak to media.
She has indicated that her sexuality is a private matter.
The DUP’s fundamentalist founder, the firebrand preacher the Rev Ian Paisley, led a campaign to “Save Ulster From Sodomy” and his successors have vetoed efforts to introduce same-sex marriage.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the right does not exist and Westminster has been under pressure to legislate in the absence of a Stormont Assembly.
DUP leader Arlene Foster suggested Ms Bennington’s election did not necessarily mean a shift in the party’s policy on same-sex marriage.
“She’s a committed unionist and that’s why she decided to put her name forward for the DUP, as many others did right across the country, and she was selected on that basis,” she told UTV.
“It sends out a message that the DUP is open to everyone who signs up to the policies of the DUP, as Alison did.”
Ms Bennington runs a consultancy firm in the sports sector and previously worked in local government.