Jim Wells health committee call over gay abuse comments

Reprinted from BBC News:

Media captionA row has broken out over comments made by Northern Ireland health minister Jim Wells, as BBC News NI Political Correspondent Stephen Walker reports

The chair of Stormont’s health committee has said she has called Health Minister Jim Wells before the committee to explain his comments on same sex relationships.

Mr Wells apologised on Friday after he linked gay relationships and the abuse of children at a hustings meeting on Thursday night.

Maeve McLaughlin welcomed the apology.

However, she said she wanted Mr Wells to explain the nature of the alleged research he had quoted at the event.

“While I welcome his apology and retraction of the offensive comments, questions still remain for Jim Wells to answer,” Ms McLaughlin said.

“I look forward to the minister’s appearance before the committee and I hope he will take the opportunity to completely and unequivocally refute his baseless claims.”

Police are investigating the comments by Mr Wells.

He told a hustings event: “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That a child is far more likely to be abused and neglected…”

The minister was then interrupted by uproar from the audience.

In a later statement, he said: “I accept that one line of what I said caused offence and deep concern.”

Mr Wells added: “I regret having wrongly made that remark about abuse and I’m sorry those words were uttered. The comment did not reflect my view nor that of my party.”

‘Mask has slipped’

The police said they had received a complaint and officers were currently making inquiries.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “Those comments have lifted the lid on some really unpleasant views. The mask has slipped.

Media captionSpeaking in Sheffield, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the “mask has slipped” following Jim Wells’ comments

“I’ve been warning for weeks that while, of course, we should be alarmed about the prospects of Ed Miliband dancing to the tune of Alex Salmond, we should be equally alarmed at the prospect of a hapless David Cameron, minority Conservative administration, dancing to the tune of Nigel Farage, the right wing of his own party and some of these truly, truly, backward looking views from the DUP.”

Mr Wells, the DUP South Down candidate in the 7 May election, made the comments during a discussion on gay marriage.

In a second statement on Friday morning, Mr Wells said the past few weeks had “been extremely difficult” for him personally as he had “just come from a hospital visit”.

He added: “Within seconds of realising this error, I asked the chairman to let me back in and twice corrected my remarks before the debate moved on.”

The Ulster Unionist Party said the comments were “absolutely appalling… and totally wrong”.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt told the BBC’s Nolan Show that an electoral pact between his party and the DUP, in four Westminster constituencies, remained in place.

Assembly rules

However, he added: “Jim Wells needs to do more in deed and in action to prove that the real Jim Wells is reflected in this morning’s statement rather than in yesterday’s comment.”

South Down Conservative candidate Felicity Buchan also attended the hustings event.

“The Conservative Party and I personally do not in any way agree with what was said.”

Alliance North Down MLA, Stephen Farry, said: “There is absolutely no link between the incidence of abuse and neglect and the sexual orientation of parents,” he said.

‘No distinction’

“Nor indeed, is there any difference between two-parent and single-parent households.”

The SDLP said it was going to submit a motion of no confidence in Mr Wells.

Margaret Ritchie, who is standing as an SDLP candidate, said his comments were “completely unacceptable”.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Ivan Lewis, said: “It is right that Jim Wells has apologised for these highly inappropriate remarks. There can be no justification for false and stigmatising statements about LGBT people.

“There should be a commitment to zero tolerance of homophobia across the United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland.”

 

Further reading of interest:

Snap 2015-04-26 at 12.36.22

 

 

 

 

 

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