Belfast Telegraph

Challenging time for Jim Wells

Editor's Viewpoint

Damage to one's reputation is a bitter blow for anyone to shoulder, even more so if the person involved is in the public eye. So it is little wonder that former Health Minister Jim Wells is keen to put the record straight as he sees it over his controversial anti-gay remarks earlier this year, which led to him resigning from his high-profile position.

At the time we said there was no excuse for those remarks, but also noted that he was under tremendous strain due to the serious ill-health of his wife.

Now he claims that the reported remarks captured on tape were doctored to create a wrong impression of what he actually said. If that is the case, then he has every right to feel aggrieved and to believe that he resigned from an important political position without just reason.

It is unusual for politicians in Northern Ireland to resign from anything, no matter what the issue involved or the accusation against them, so it would be ironic in the extreme if Mr Wells' resignation was the result of some sort of dirty trick played on him.

While he says that party leader Peter Robinson has been very supportive of him during this controversial period, it is obvious that - with a few exceptions - he feels he was not given much backing by other party members.

When he emailed party councillors and MLAs with the full text of his remarks, which put his supposedly anti-gay comments in context, only four bothered to read the message. This smacks more of a rush to distance themselves from a beleaguered colleague rather than rallying to his support.

Hurtful as the damage to his reputation and career has been, Mr Wells faces an even graver challenge over his wife Grace's health. Having been told that she will never walk again after two strokes, the couple and their three children now head into a difficult future.

At one stage it appeared that Mrs Wells, still a relatively young woman, would make a full if slow recovery, but clinicians have now ruled that out.

Her condition and the impact on the whole family puts life in perspective for them. Of course, Mr Wells wants to restore his reputation and to ensure that his political career is not seen as a total failure, but even more, he and his family will want to make sure that Mrs Wells has the best possible quality of life in the years ahead.

Belfast Telegraph


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