Equality, not when you have a Petition of Concern

Marriage EqualityI have written previously on First Minister Foster’s inability to move with what the voters have clearly indicated on; it would seem that the DUP remain blinkered to where we are as a society in regards to marriage equality, and if they are so inclined with this minority how are they with others?

I call yet again on the First Minister to stop using the petition of concern to hide behind.  This instrument is long overdue to be removed from civilised politics on both sides, to allow proper politics to move forward along with the country.

I refer the Fist Minister to a report by the BBC in July 2013 which would seem to suggest that Petitions of Concern were being abused by both main political parties, and that the 1998 Act section governing their use was not clear enough and that Petitions of Concern need to review.

The SDLP leader, Mr Durkan,  at that time said:-“I have made the point several times before and do so again that the standing orders need to be corrected in accordance with the agreement and the 1998 Act.

“The argument can also be made, and I made it at the time, that the 1998 Act could have been more explicit in providing for the procedure intended.”

Petitions of concern: Is Stormont’s safeguard system being abused?


These figures outline the number of times each party has had members sign a petition of concern. As some documents were signed by more than one party, there will be some overlap which is why the total number of petitions in this table amount to more than the total number tabled during the last mandate.

Stormont’s petition of concern used 115 times in five years

Call her Kim Jong Foster, she prefers dictatorship to democracy.

Source: Anti-gay crusade of Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister

Equality in Marriage Blocked Again

Government is put in place to govern, that we can all accept.  However it is supposedly done on the basis of consent and democracy.  Government is supposed to listen to the electorate (not just at ballot and election time) but throughout the duration of its time in office!  In consequence, I would draw First Minister Arlene Foster’s attention to the Mori poll published in the Belfast Telegraph in June of this year,  which shows that 70% of the electorate agrees with gay marriage. (Survey shows 70% support for same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland) – this poll clearly  indicates that the electorate has moved on, and that gay marriage is acceptable.  How much longer will the DUP continue to bury not just its head, but its whole body in the sand about what is a right – this is about equality and fairness.  Dave McFarlane, Community JournalistEquality for all

Attempts to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland are set to be thwarted for at least another five years after the Democratic Unionists insisted they would continue to block a

Source: First Minister Arlene Foster vows to continue blocking attempts to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland – Petition Launched to Stop the DUP using Petition of Concern to derail Equality in NI



People in Northern Ireland are sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people’ – Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director)




The Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont have now voted on the issue of marriage equality 5 times. All 5 of those motions were blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party through their use of a parliamentary veto called the “petition of concern.” 

Under the complex rules of power sharing in Northern Ireland, parties from either the unionist or nationalist community can use this veto if they feel there is not enough backing from Protestants or Catholics for particular legislation. It was designed to ensure no one community dominated the other following the 1998 Belfast agreement.

This mechanism established to ensure the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland is being continually abused to deny a fundamental right to the LGBT community and, because of this, Northern Ireland is lagging behind the rest of Western Europe in adopting a fairer, more equal and more forward thinking approach to human rights. 

Four previous motions failed to reach a majority in favour of Marriage Equality. However, even if any of these motions did achieve a majority in favour , the DUP had already implemented the petition of concern prior to each vote to ensure the result was a foregone conclusion.

This was also the case with vote 5 in November 2015, but on this occasion the mechanism was officially enacted to veto a majority of politicians who voted ‘AYE’ in favour of the legislation.

Four independent unionist assembly members joined nationalists and others with 53 votes in favour of marriage equality – one vote ahead of the remaining unionists and independents opposed to any reform. A narrow majority but a majority all the same.

The party known as the “Democratic” Unionist Party (DUP) thwarted a democratic vote and derailed equality by using the mechanism unfairly on this issue and it seems most people are not happy about this. 

Numerous surveys have shown that a majority of people in NI are now in favour of marriage equality.

  • In November 2015 a poll jointly commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland and Irish broadcaster RTÉ, revealed that 64 percent of people support equal marriage in Northern Ireland while just 23 percent oppose it. Over 2000 people were surveyed for the cross-borders research, carried out by the polling company B&A. Not far off the landslide 62% YES vote in Ireland’s marriage equality referendum last year.
  • In June 2015 an Ipsos MORI survey interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16+ from across Northern Ireland. The interviews were conducted face-to-face between 20th May and 8th June 2015 with data weighted to match the profile of the population. The results showed that 68% of those surveyed supported marriage equality. The figure rises to 82% among 16 to 34-year-olds and 75% support among 35 to 54-year-olds, but falls to 47% among those aged 55 and over. 

In 2005 UK government actuaries suggested 6% (1 in 16.66) of the population, or about 3.6 million citizens, are either gay or lesbian. The Treasury calculated this estimate when analysing the financial implications of the Civil Partnerships Act. The figures were based on the 2000 National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), which asked respondents about sexual attitudes and behaviours, but not orientation, and on comparable research from Europe and America.

In a study examining the responses of 7,441 individuals, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland, found that 2.7% of men and 1.2% of women self-identified as homosexual or bisexual. A question based on a variant of the Kinsey scale found that 5.3% of men and 5.8% of women reported some same-sex attraction. Of those surveyed, 7.1% of men and 4.7% of women reported a homosexual experience some time in their life so far.

In reality however this has less to do with numbers and more to do with human beings with feelings and without access to an equal definition and commitment to love. Most of us will know someone who is gay. This issue is not just about our friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues and neighbours. It is about standing up for basic human rights. 

The DUP have to stop differentiating peoples’ rights under the law according to their sexuality. It’s simple genetics. It would be absurd to say blonde people couldn’t marry. We’ll give them blond partnerships. Blond people could ruin the sanctity of marriage.

The DUP should step up on this issue and show NI is about equality and unity. The negative narrative has clearly has now so evidently isolated us in Western Europe.

The love between same sex and opposite sex couples is the same. Why can’t their love be recognised in the same way?

Love is love regardless of gender and hair colour.

This shouldn’t be an issue of gay rights, blond rights, transgender rights or Christian rights. This is about human rights and the equal recognition of love under the law.

It has already been established that any marriage equality legislation will grant religious organisations protections so that they will not have to officiate same sex ceremonies. This means there is no threat to the religious interpretation and view that marriage should remain as between a man and a woman. It’s just not right that in a democratic society everyone should be forced to think that way. The only people truly affected by this legislation would be those who wish to marry someone of the same sex.

Sign this petition to voice your opposition to the DUP’s abuse of the petition of concern and to petition OFMDFM to agree not to use such a veto on what is evidently a human rights and equality issue.  
As first minister and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster has the power to bring Northern Ireland into the 21st century and alter the perception that her party is trapped in the past. The last thing Northern Ireland needs for its image right now is the perception that it is “on the wrong side of history.” Sign your name on the petition HERE and stand up for human rights.

Letter to
Office of the First and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland (OFMDFMNI)
Stop the DUP using the ‘petition of concern’ to veto Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland

The Queen of Ireland: Gay rights movie released in Northern Ireland is sheer bliss

A charismatic drag queen is the star of this documentary about the Republic’s gay marriage referendum, writes Andrew Johnston

The Queen of Ireland couldn’t have timed its Northern Ireland release better. The documentary about marriage equality in the Republic of Ireland arrives in the same week the DUP scuppered a majority Assembly vote to allow same-sex weddings in the north.

  After watching this deeply affecting film, the anger, sadness and frustration felt by many at the party’s underhand use of a petition of concern will be intensified. Director Conor Horgan’s beautifully shot and edited movie follows Panti Bliss, the drag queen alter-ego of Co Mayo-born performer and activist Rory O’Neill, who somewhat inadvertently became the LGBT movement’s figurehead in the run-up to May’s marriage rights referendum. In her towering heels and extravagant, blonde wig, she is an imposing presence, yet O’Neill’s larger-than-life character is as persuasive as she is visually arresting. In his own words, Panti is a “giant cartoon woman”, but she is also an eloquent and incisive commentator, who counts the likes of Stephen Fry and Madonna among her legion of fans, and in 2014, received an Irish Person of the Year Award.

Her creator’s life has certainly been an eventful one. The Queen of Ireland takes us from O’Neill’s childhood in the small town of Ballinrobe, where he was, as he puts it, “the local gay”, through the perhaps inevitable art college years, to the development of his stage persona during hedonistic adventures in London and Tokyo. Eventually, O’Neill comes home to a relatively more progressive Ireland and embarks on a campaigning trail that ultimately leads to the Republic becoming the first country to approve same-sex marriage through a public vote. The Queen of Ireland isn’t just powerful because of the emotive subject matter; it has a rich dramatic arc, too. There is tragedy when O’Neill suffers a serious health setback, and when he invokes costly legal proceedings with contentious remarks made on RTE’s Saturday Night Show, a row that is dubbed “Pantigate”. But there is triumph when he returns to Ballinrobe to perform to a sold-out crowd in a marquee in a car park near his family home, and later, when the ‘Yes’ result is returned in the referendum. As a stand-up, Panti is smart and hilarious, albeit one you might not take your mother to see (and indeed, O’Neill tones down the swearing and explicit sexual references for the homecoming gig, attended by his elderly parents). Panti’s abrasive one-liners earn The Queen of Ireland its 15 certificate, but behind the facade, O’Neill reveals a complex personality. He is as humble and kind as his self-described “court jester” drag act is outrageous. It may be Horgan’s film, but it’s O’Neill and Panti’s show, and as narrator, the cross-dressing star steers the narrative to its startling denouement – Ireland’s legalising of gay marriage. To see same-sex partners celebrating in streets where 22 years previously homosexuality had been punishable by prison delivers an emotional punch on a par with any feel-good flick. If you’d pitched this tale to a Hollywood producer in the early Nineties, you might well have been laughed out of the room. The realities of being a gay man or woman in Ireland in the Seventies and Eighties are well covered through extensive interviews and newsreel footage, and it’s heartening to see how far Irish society has come, though for audiences in the north, it will be dispiriting to be reminded how far we are lagging behind. The Queen of Ireland deserves to be seen by everyone, be they gay, straight, male, female, young or old. In fact, this important piece of work should be shown in schools – and maybe even in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The DUP are risking a great deal in blocking equal marriage

New Statesman Logo

Siobhan Fenton

northern-ireland-assembly[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s fair to say that Northern Ireland isn’t exactly a trail blazer when it comes to social justice issues. Long after England, Scotland, Wales and finally the Republic of Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage, the country continues to lag behind.

However, this changed yesterday as Northern Ireland finally voted yes to same-sex marriage. A cause for celebration, you might think, but same-sex couples won’t be booking into registry offices any time soon. Despite the bill being supported by 50.5 per cent of MLAs, it still cannot pass due to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) blocking it.

This has happened because under the devolved Stormont parliament, political parties can trigger a “petition of concern” to block legislation in the chamber. Once issued, it means that a bill cannot just get a simple majority vote overall, instead it needs to get a majority amongst Nationalist or Catholic politicians, as well as a majority amongst Unionist or Protestant politicians.

Many of the DUP’s leading politicians are staunch traditional Protestants who are fierce in their opposition to what they term “sodomites” within Northern Ireland. They are resolute in their determination to block LGBT rights through any means possible, no matter how underhand or undemocratic.

Although they were unable to stop same-sex marriage being approved by a majority, the DUP were able to stop it from being approved by a majority of Unionists by triggering the petition and then voting no themselves. This technicality meant that today’s vote cannot count and Northern Ireland will remain the only part of the UK or Ireland without marriage equality.

The “petition of concern” mechanism is thought to be unique to Northern Ireland’s political structures and was embedded in power-sharing to protect either side of the religious divide if a bill was genuinely harmful or unjust towards either ‘side’. However, the DUP have begun misusing the process in order to block same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Today’s vote leaves Northern Ireland in a difficult position in terms of democracy. It will have significant repercussions for the nature of devolution and the relationship between Westminster and Stormont.

Westminster will now have to consider whether to intervene to circumvent the DUP’s petition in order to enable Northern Irish same-sex couples to finally marry. If they do not do so, they will be accused of letting the DUP’s bully tactics triumph and of allowing the Northern Irish LGBT community to suffer.

Yet, if Westminster does intervene, it will also face accusations of undermining the principle of devolution- that Northern Irish issues are for Northern Irish politicians alone to deal with.

Above all, the incident is yet another example of how power sharing structures negotiated in the 1990s are showing their strain. Whilst they might have proved effective elements of the Assembly in its infancy, “petitions of concern” are being misused by politicians to undermine the business of their own parliament. As Stormont’s near collapse in September proved, a number of elements of the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland Assembly are proving to no longer be fit for purpose and are doing more to impede than support democracy in the province.

DUP's Jim Wells in bid to clear name over gay remarks





Former health minister Jim Wells claimed his meaning had been misconstrued

DUP politician Jim Wells has launched a bid to clear his name after he was accused of linking child abuse and gay relationships.

He resigned as health minister after a tape from a hustings event in Downpatrick in April was made public.

In the tape, he said: “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.”

But he told BBC NI’s Nolan Show on Wednesday that the tape was wrong in that it had been cut short and his meaning had been misconstrued.

“I want to clear my name. I want people to know that I did not say what that tape suggests,” he said.

“This tape totally misrepresented what I said in the live (session).

“The tape links my views on gay adoption and my views as to what happens to children in controversial and angry divorces.

“Had the tape gone on another two minutes we would not be having this discussion.”

Mr Wells told presenter Enda McClafferty that he only realised this when he got a complete transcript of what he had actually said at a later date.

“The tape that went out across the world stopped before I was able to explain what I meant,” he said.

“I did not say that homosexuals abused children.”

“I did say I was opposed to gay marriage, which I am.

“But then I go on to make the argument that when marriages break up – in either a heterosexual or homosexual relationship – if a marriage is in high conflict, this is almost invariably to the detriment of the child.”

Mr Wells said he felt “humiliated” by what had happened.

A police investigation is ongoing.


Editorial:  We have previously reported on this story, but now we ask you to make your own mind up – which side of the story do you believe, Mr Wells’ current interpretation or the recording? Comment and let us know.


What Ireland’s Same-Sex Marriage Vote Means for Northern Ireland

MAY 27 2015 8:00 AM

In December 2005, supporters of same-sex marriage stand in front of protesters vehemently opposed to “anything approaching gay marriage” outside Belfast City Hall as the first partnership ceremonies for U.K. same-sex couples are held.*

Photo by Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

A month before the Irish people gave their wholehearted support to marriage equality, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted down same-sex marriage for the fourth time. It was embarrassing then, but after the referendum in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland’s status as the only nation in the British Isles willing to deny same-sex couples the right to marriage—an outpost of homophobic discrimination in Western Europe—is even more disgraceful and unjustifiable.

Northern Ireland’s ignoble status is, on one level, a product of the British political system. Marriage is a “devolved” issue, meaning that England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have their own laws on same-sex marriage. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which introduced marriage equality to England and Wales, did not apply to Northern Ireland, although the law did specify that same-sex marriages entered into in England and Wales are recognized as civil partnerships in Northern Ireland.

Yet the absence of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is clearly also a matter of political unwillingness. This doesn’t come from the nationalist parties. Both Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party support it, as does the nonsectarian Alliance Party (although some Alliance and SDLP members were mysteriously missing during the recent vote on same-sex marriage). The problem in Northern Ireland is very much the Democratic Unionist Party.

Since it was established by Ian Paisley in 1971, the DUP has been associated with social conservatism and Protestant fundamentalism. Paisley and the DUP were behind the Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign, founded in 1977, which sought for years to prevent the decriminalization of homosexuality in Northern Ireland. The DUP opposed civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples at the time they were made law in 2005 (and still does), just as it opposes marriage equality today.

Homophobia is inherent to the DUP. Ian Paisley Jr., a member of the U.K. parliament, showed that the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree when he said he was “repulsed” by homosexuality. Iris Robinson, wife of Northern Ireland’s first minister,called homosexuality “disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked, and vile.” And Jim Wells recently resigned as the region’s health minister after saying, “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That … child is far more likely to be abused and neglected.”

Political homophobia is connected with religious power. Northern Irish people find themselves living under what has been called “essentially a theocratic regime,” due to the hold the Calvinist fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church has over the DUP. A recent study found that Free Presbyterianism “remains the largest faith among both DUP members and elected representatives.” As many as 30.5 percent of DUP members are Free Presbyterians, compared with a measly 0.6 percent of the Northern Irish population at large.

Since the 1970s, Northern Ireland’s LGBTQ activists have used the court system as one path to legal and social change. Indeed, it is because of the European Court of Human Rights that homosexuality was decriminalized in Northern Ireland. In the case of Dudgeon v the United Kingdom, the court ruled that the criminalization of male homosexual acts violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights with regard to the respect for private and family life. (The plaintiff, Jeff Dudgeon, had been persecuted by Northern Irish police throughout the 1970s on account of his homosexuality.)

This month, a court in Belfast ruled against Ashers Baking Co., a Christian-run bakery that refused service to a gay activist who wanted them to make a cake that included a slogan in support of same-sex marriage.* The judge determined that a business run for profit could not use freedom of religion to exempt itself from anti-discrimination law. Right now, there is a challenge underway to the Northern Irish government’s nonrecognition of same-sex marriages conducted in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Alongside the legal route, a mass demonstration organized by the Rainbow Project, Amnesty International, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is planned for June 13 in Belfast. “Northern Ireland is now the last bastion of discrimination against gay people in these islands,” Amnesty’s Northern Ireland Program Director Patrick Corrigan said. “People in Northern Ireland are sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people.” Faced with a sclerotic political system, the courts and the streets are, for now, the gay community’s best hopes of overturning the status quo.

*Correction, May 27, 2015: This article originally misstated that Ashers Baking Co. refused service to a gay couple. It was gay activist Gareth Lee who ordered the cake. Also, due to a photo provider error, the caption on this photo originally misstated that the people in the photo were protesting same-sex marriage. The people standing in front of the banner are supporters of same-sex marriage.

Liam Hoare is a freelance writer whose work on politics and literature features in theForward and the Tower. He is a graduate of University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

Simon Hamilton appointed Northern Ireland's health minister in DUP reshuffle

repritned from Belfast Telegraph – 11 May 2015

DUP leader Peter Robinson has appointed MLA Simon Hamilton as Northern Ireland’s health minister.

The former Stormont finance minister replaces Jim Wells, who stepped down to care for his sick wife after sparking controversy with comments about gay marriage.

The appointment was announced as part of a major reshuffle of the DUP’s ministerial team at the Assembly.

Mr Robinson made the announcements via Twitter.

Mr Hamilton said: “I look forward to getting to grips with the challenges over the next number of days.

“Even though it is a new beat for me I am well aware of the challenges.”

Jim Wells resigned last month following a public outcry over comments allegedly linking gay marriage to child abuse. He later apologised.
Video: DUP Reshuffle – Simon Hamilton appointed Northern Ireland’s health minister   He said: “I wanted to get the right people in the right positions and I believe I have done that.” Mr Wells announced his resignation two weeks ago saying he wanted to devote more time to caring for his wife who had suffered two strokes.

Video: DUP Reshuffle: Peter Robinson announces new Executive ministers
He had been facing calls to resign since the release of video footage in which he said the “facts show you certainly don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship”.

An alleged verbal altercation with a lesbian couple during an election canvass in his South Down constituency added further pressure.

The furore came at a time of intense scrutiny when the DUP was claiming the party could be ‘kingmakers’ in the event of a hung parliament and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg branded the remarks “truly backward looking”.

Mr Hamilton, a Strangford MLA, has been an effective caretaker for the department of health for the past two weeks.

He added: “I am looking forward to getting to grips with what is a challenging department and a very challenging role, particularly focusing on Transforming Your Care and that agenda of reforming our health service so that it is fit for the challenges the years ahead present.

“I have enjoyed the last couple of weeks in looking after the department. It has certainly shown all the immense challenges that are there within the department and I am looking forward to getting my teeth into them.”

Meanwhile Mr Robinson confirmed that Mervyn Storey remains as the minister for the department of social development.

In addition, Jonathan Bell was appointed as minister of department of enterprise trade and investment.

He takes over from Arlene Foster who has taken up the role as finance minister – which was previously held by Simon Hamilton.

Michelle McIlveen takes over from Jonathan Bell as junior minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

Following the announcement of the reshuffle Justice Minister David Ford said Mr Hamilton must “bring change in attitude to equality issues” in his role as Health Minister.

Mr Ford said:  “I would like to congratulate Simon Hamilton on his appointment and wish him well during his term in office. However, if he wants to be judged differently to his two predecessors, it is vital that he brings a change in attitude to the Health Department.

“During his first week in office, he can immediately bring an end to his Department’s legal challenge on the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood and indicate his support for adoption by civil partners.”

He added: “Bringing in a new face will be meaningless if Simon Hamilton just continues with the same attitudes as his predecessors.”

In a statement the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry congratulated the news Ministers.

Chief Executive of NI Chamber, Ann McGregor said: “NI Chamber congratulates the new Ministers who are taking up the lead in DFP, DETI and Health Departments.

“DFP Minister Foster is well briefed on the business sectors priorities for the NI budget in particular the need to focus on corporation tax as well as investment in skills and infrastructure.

“Minister Foster was very strong in DETI and we encourage Minister Bell to continue to ensure that we have a pro- business, pro enterprise agenda. A focus on growing export is essential.

“Minister Hamilton with his DFP experience should bring a new focus to Health and his understanding of balancing challenging budgets should lead to improved efficiencies in Health.”

DUP reshuffle changes

Mervyn Storey remains as DSD Minister.

Jonathan Bell appointed Enterprise Minister.

Arlene Foster appointed as Finance Minister.

Simon Hamilton appointed as Health Minister.

Michelle McIlveen appointed as Junior Minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

– See more at:

Health Minister Jim Wells Quits!

Reprinted Belfast Telegraph

Health Minister Jim Wells today quit his Executive post after facing massive pressure over controversial comments about same-sex relationships.

The DUP’s South Down candidate in the Westminster election said he was stepping down to care for his wife Grace, who recently suffered two strokes and went through major heart surgery.

Mr Wells has been at the centre of a political storm over his stance on same-sex relationships, after he claimed children brought up by gay parents were more likely to be abused.

Then on Saturday, he sparked further uproar after it was claimed he had criticised a lesbian couple while canvassing in Rathfriland.

As well as widespread calls to resign, Mr Wells became the target of an online hate campaign, which he said had badly affected him and his family.

He said that he and his family had been attacked in “a deeply personal, nasty and in some cases threatening way. Some of the outbursts on social media have been particularly abusive and menacing in nature”.

The pressure on Mr Wells had been increasing in recent months as he tried to juggle one of the most testing portfolios in the Stormont government – health – with the demands of looking after his wife.

Many of the health unions will be taking industrial action around the time of the May 7 election.

Early this morning, the DUP veteran told the Belfast Telegraph he had expected his wife’s health would have shown greater improvement before now.

However, he said Grace (right)will require long-term specialised care.


Health Minister Jim Wells

Health Minister Jim Wells

“As she now faces further challenges I have come to the point where I am no longer able to continue my ministerial duties and give Grace the attention she deserves,” he said.

“I have been working long hours within the department by day whilst receiving a steady flow of updates from family at the hospital and then sitting at Grace’s bedside throughout the night.

“Even in circumstances where Grace was sufficiently recovered and discharged, she would then more than ever require substantial assistance with rehabilitation. Having been my chief supporter throughout my career my first duty will always be to look after Grace and my family. Consequently I met with Peter and requested to stand down from ministerial office.”

First Minister Peter Robinson said he respected his Health Minister’s decision and thanked him for his work around the Executive table.

“I believe he has made a great contribution and always offered positive support at an Executive level,” the DUP leader said.

“I would have wanted it to be otherwise but I respect Jim’s decision. However, he is right to put his family first and I will fully support his decision.”

Mrs Wells, who celebrated her 57th birthday in hospital with a cake and surrounded by her family, has been diagnosed with Platypnea Orthodoexia Syndrome – a condition so rare there are only 50 cases worldwide each year.

And yesterday, it was reported Mr Wells was recently diagnosed with narcolepsy, a rare disorder which can cause sufferers to fall asleep without warning. The political row started when Mr Wells linked gay relationships to child abuse at an election event in Downpatrick.

Mr Wells said a child brought up in a homosexual relationship was more likely to be abused and neglected, claiming that such marriages were less stable.


In a video clip, Mr Wells was heard to say that “the facts show you certainly don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship”.

The DUP minister later apologised, but his remarks caused uproar.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said “the mask has slipped”, accusing the DUP of being “truly backward-looking” in its views.

Mr Robinson said Mr Wells’ remarks were “not our view and nor will it ever be our view.”

Police confirmed they were investigating the comments. They also launched a probe after receiving three complaints about an incident involving Mr Wells and a lesbian couple on the campaign trail.

It was alleged that he had been critical about the couple’s lifestyle while out canvassing on Saturday.

It was reported that Mr Wells had twice tried to apologise, but the couple had refused to accept it.

The daughter of one of the women told the BBC: “Jim Wells was trying to get in, trying to see mum and her partner said, ‘No she’s not coming out to see you, she doesn’t want to see you’.

“He really wanted to try and get in to apologise to her, but she didn’t want it.

“He kept saying about lifestyle choices and how it was wrong, how his party didn’t believe in lifestyle choices.

“My mum’s partner actually told him she’d voted DUP all her life and he’s now lost her vote.”

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