Northern Irish Health Minister resigns after anti-gay remark

01 May 2015

PA

Exit: Jim Wells (right) leaves the Chamber at Stormont Buildings, after his resignation on Monday. He is to stand down from the Northern Ireland Executive on 11 May 

Exit: Jim Wells (right) leaves the Chamber at Stormont Buildings, after his resignation on Monday. He is to stand down ...

THE Northern Irish Assembly Health Minister, Jim Wells, resigned on Monday over alleged homophobic remarks. The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Peter Robinson, tried to persuade him to stay on, but the Minister said that he was placing his wife, Grace, who had suffered a number of strokes, above political office, and that he was unable to fully commit to his Stormont portfolio as a result.

He caused a furore last week when he made comments that appeared to link same-sex marriage and child abuse. He told an election meeting in the constituency of South Down, where he is standing as a candidate, that children in "non-stable" marriages were more susceptible to abuse. "Facts show you certainly don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That a child is far more likely to be abused and neglected. . ." He was then interrupted by the audience.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Wells apologised for any offence he might have caused: "I have already said sorry for the offence caused, and acknowledged that the comments were factually inaccurate."

In a separate development, Ian Paisley Jr, also a member of the DUP, has told Justin McAleese, the gay son of the former Irish President, Mary McAleese, to "get over it", after Mr McAleese, who is 30, revealed that he felt inhibited from "coming out" at university because of Mr Paisley's description of homosexual lifestyles as "immoral, offensive, and obnoxious".

Mr McAleese said "Language matters; words matter; marriage matters." Mr Paisley said that he had never retracted, nor been asked to retract, his views on homosexuality as quoted.

DUP blocks same-sex marriage measure: On Monday, the DUP blocked a fourth attempt by Sinn Féin and the SDLP to bring forward a measure that would legalise same-sex marriage in the Province. A DUP member described the motion as an attack on the symbolism and institution of marriage, and an attempt to redefine marriage.

Before the defeat of the motion, the Church of Ireland group Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) called on politicians in Northern Ireland to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, as an important step to "dismantle the architecture of homophobia". Last month, the CoI Bishop of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, said in a statement that gay rights was "the great justice issue of our time".

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