Video footage has surfaced on Twitter showing the DUP Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Jim Wells, making disgraceful comments about members of the gay community and people in “unstable” relationships. Mr Wells was speaking at a South Down election hustings hosted by the Down Recorder.
#sdhustings began trending on Twitter overnight with people keen to express their disapproval at his remarks..
The comments were met with uproar at the South Down hustings with people in the audience heard shouting “shame on you”.
Chris Hazzard, Sinn Féin’s candidate for the constituency who was in attendance at the debate, said the comments “call into question Mr Wells’ responsibility and ability to run a health service for all”.
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said Mr Wells had gone “far beyond the limits of acceptable behaviour”.
Mike Nesbitt told Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio Ulster this morning that the minister’s remarks were totally outrageous but refused to rule out an electoral pact with the DUP. He added that he has “no time” for the health minister if his comments at the hustings event reflected his internal views.
It’s clear that these hurtful comments warrant the MLA’s immediate resignation. The outcry from members of the public will hopefully finally hold the DUP to account for comments from party members. A change.org petition has been launched calling for his resignation, adding yet another name to a growing list of DUP politicians to have featured on the site.
Mr Wells released a late night statement to the DUP press office attempting to defend his offensive comments and try to calm the storm developing on social media.
In the first of two statements that have already surfaced online from the DUP he said:
“During a debate in South Down this evening I refused to agree with an audience member that marriage should be redefined.
“Where there are non-stable relationships involving children, whether heterosexual or homosexual, the children suffer. I make no distinction between anyone who neglects a child on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
In a statement released this morning (Friday 24th), the Health Minister sought to offer an excuse for his vile homophobic outburst but has yet to state that he now understands the ludicrous, prejudiced ideas he presented were not based on any evidence.
“The neglect or abuse of children is awful and happens in unstable relationships whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. I make no distinction between anyone who neglects or abuses a child regardless of their sexual orientation. I trust people will accept my explanation and my apology.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said they had received a complaint and officers were currently making enquiries.
DUP leader Peter Robinson has stood by Jim’s comments telling reporters this morning “On a better day Jim would not have made these comments” but after the last couple of months “looking after his wife in hospital whilst trying to keep a significant department in the executive going” he is under immense pressure. Mr Robinson said Mr Wells “accepted the remarks were offensive and that is why he has apologised”.
Check out the video below: