DUP’s Jim Wells demands apology from ‘LGBT lobby’ for hurtful comments online
Former DUP MLA Jim Wells has demanded an apology from the “LGBT lobby” for making hurtful comments about him on social media.
Wells, who lost the party whip in 2018, made his comments on BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show after DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley apologised for “atrocious” comments made by her party colleagues.
When asked about Bradley’s apology, Jim Wells claimed that she was “speaking in her capacity as an MLA rather than as deputy leader of the DUP or on behalf of the DUP”, adding that the party has not taken “any policy decision” on the issue.
“What I would like to happen Stephen is for the LGBT lobby to apologise to me and hundreds of others who’ve been subject to the most atrocious social media and public comment because we’ve dared to stand for traditional marriage and traditional values,” Jim Wells said.
“I could paper the wall with the most abusive, horrible, ghastly and indeed downright offensive comments that have been made against me.”
DUP’s Jim Wells thinks his party’s LGBT+ comments have been ‘measured’ and ‘sensible’
Host Stephen Nolan noted that DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has already backed Bradley’s apology.
“I don’t think Jeffrey was saying that,” Jim Wells said, suggesting the party leader’s apology was intended “on a more general level”.
Wells continued: “The vast majority of comments made by public representatives of the DUP on this issue have been measured, they’ve been sensible and they have been reflective of the views of a large number of people in Northern Ireland and certainly I have nothing to apologise for.”
He went on to claim that he has been targeted with “scurrilous” and “hurtful” comments by LGBT+ activists on social media, saying he has had to report some of them to the police.
Benjamin Cohen, CEO of PinkNews, joined the discussion, telling Nolan that it is “odd” that Jim Wells wants the LGBT+ community to apologise to him when he doesn’t want to apologise for “the incredibly hurtful things he’s said about LGBT+ people”.
Cohen noted that DUP members have said “a whole variety of things” about the LGBT+ community over the years and insisted that Bradley made her comments as deputy leader of the party and not as an MLA.
Nolan: "Was it right for DUP to apologise to LGBT people?"
Jim Wells: "I would like the LGBT community to apologise to ME."
That's enough for today folks!
— Ben Kelly (@BenKellyTweets) July 2, 2021
When asked by Cohen if he accepts he’s ever caused hurt to the LGBT+ community, Wells said he has “no doubt” there are instances where people were hurt by his staunch opposition to marriage equality.
“I don’t apologise for one second for holding to the view that marriage is between one man and one woman,” he added.
Cohen said he doesn’t expect Wells to apologise for his views, but asked if he would apologise for “causing hurt”.
“By standing by the views of many hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland on the traditional family values and marriage, that may cause hurt, but I’m not going to apologise for that,” Wells replied.
“I’m going to stand by the view that thousands of my constituents hold, that marriage is between one man and one woman. Full stop.”
Jim Wells refused to accept that Ian Paisley Jr ever said he was ‘repulsed’ by gay people
Jim Wells said he would “need to see chapter and verse” and would need to know “the context” before making any comment on Paisley’s past remarks.
After Nolan read Paisley’s full comment, Wells said he doubts it was ever said – and even if it was, it would still “pale in significance” to the “hundreds” of abusive messages he has received from LGBT+ people on social media.
Closing out the discussion, Wells was asked if he had a message for Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ community.
“My message to gay people in Northern Ireland is that there’s a large number of people in Northern Ireland who believe in traditional values, and those traditional values are based on family, husbands and wives, mating, getting married, having children, rearing those children the best they can.”
He said people who try to “undermine” those “fundamental building blocks” in society risk bringing society “down”.
Paula Bradley apologised for ‘atrocious’ and ‘shocking’ anti-LGBT+ comments
Jim Wells’ comments come after Bradley – who was appointed deputy leader of the DUP in May – apologised for past anti-LGBT+ comments made by her party colleagues.
“I am not going to defend some of the things that have been said over the years, because they have been absolutely atrocious, they’ve been shocking,” Bradley said at the PinkNews Summer Reception in Belfast on Thursday evening (1 July), which was run in conjunction with Citi and The Rainbow Project.
She went on to say that she “couldn’t stand by many of those comments” and later suggested that she might not be allowed back for next year’s reception following her apology.
Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson backed Bradley’s apology during an appearance on BBC Radio Ulster on Friday morning (2 July).
The DUP has had a fractious relationship with Northern Ireland’s LGBT+ community since the party was founded by Ian Paisley in 1971.
Paisley later founded the “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign, and party members have made numerous anti-LGBT+ comments in the years since.
Bradley’s and Donaldson’s apologies have been welcomed by The Rainbow Project, a Northern Irish LGBT+ charity.
John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, said in a statement that he hopes their comments “will be the first step towards significant change within the DUP”.
“What we now need to see is action. For over 50 years the DUP has stood in opposition and actively sought to stop every LGBTQIA+ step towards equality; whether it be decriminalisation, age of consent or equal marriage.”
O’Doherty said the Northern Ireland Assembly has “consistently failed to ensure equality and equity for the LGBTQIA+ community and the DUP have been pointed to as the barrier to change.”
He said they hope to establish “a two-way respectful engagement” with the DUP on LGBT+ issues.
“We hope that that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, unlike his predecessors, will be the first DUP leader to meet with the LGBTQIA+ community and show leadership where it has been sadly lacking.”