Wells quits after ‘gay’ row with Rathfriland couple

Jim Wells pictured with his wife Grace  after being elected in Lisburn
Jim Wells pictured with his wife Grace after being elected in Lisburn

After an alleged row with a Rathfriland lesbian couple, South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells has stood down as health minister.

It was claimed that Mr Wells, who was doing door-to-door canvassing in the Stewarts Crescent area of the town, called at the couple’s house, on Saturday and during a conversation was critical of their lifestyle.

In an earlier incident the Westminster candidate for the DUP in South Down was also accused of linking same-sex relationships to child abuse - he later apologised for these comments.

On Thursday night the DUP MLA appeared to suggest that a child was more at risk of abuse or neglect if brought up in a homosexual relationship because such marriages were unstable.

Following a conversation with the couple in Rathfriland the daughter of one of the women said that her mother was very upset - and had refused an apology from Mr Wells.

The woman who wanted to remain anonymous told the BBC, “He kept saying about lifestyle choices and how it was wrong, how his party didn’t believe in the lifestyle choices.

“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 to get in and apologise to her but she didn’t want it. My mum’s partner actually told him she’d voted DUP all her life and now he’s lost her vote.”

Mr Wells later said that he was no longer able to continue his ministerial duties and give his wife “the attention she deserves.”

He said the decision to step down was made following a meeting with the DUP leader, Peter Robinson.

“As many people are aware I have been focused on helping my wife during her fight for life,” he said.

“Those who know my family and I, know the last three months have been the toughest of our lives as we watched my wife, Grace, suffer two successive strokes and battle through major heart surgery.

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

The PSNI said it had received a number of complaints regarding the incident on Saturday evening.

Superintendent David Moore said, “We have received three complaints regarding the conduct of an individual during canvassing in Stewarts Crescent in Rathfriland on Saturday evening. We are currently investigating and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”