Tag Archives: Jim Wells

Jim Wells’ comments in last night’s hustings

Firstly all of those at LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Northern Ireland want to say we are glad to have read the news in the Belfast Telegraph the other day that Mrs Grace Wells is recovering from the rare condition that affected her a short while ago. We wish her all the best in the future and understand the strain this may have put Jim Wells under.

However, if he was really under a lot of stress looking after his wife it should surely have been grounds for him not to put himself under further stress on top of being an MLA and Health Minister to seek election to Westminster. We are putting this up front as Jim Wells in a statement issued last night (see below) mentioned personal stress in recent weeks.

It is this series of comments from last night’s hustings in South Down that has brought this to a head:

Jim Wells

The comments can be viewed in video clips online.

Must horrifying of all with a raucous crowd to the last part about abuse, he immediately sets out to repeat his comments as clarification that he had said them and wanted them to be heard

The last of the sequence is that one that caused the uproar but comments have been made by members of the DUP that they have been taken out of context to the early comments about haranguing Christians and being insatiable lead up to the one about abuse of children by those in homosexual relationships.

There are over 1,200 children currently in care in Northern Ireland as the result of being victims of abuse. Is Mr Wells therefore saying that over 600 of these are from the result of having two carers of the same sex? Note we did not say parents as currently he is not allowing same-sex couples to adopt here despite a court ruling that the law should be changed to allow this. The facts of course are that very few of those children are there as a result of same-sex parents from come from homes with a father and mother involved in their upbringing.

In context of course Mr Wells had previously said that all who took part in Pride were repugnant, this was long before his wife’s current illness.

Mr Wells comments about abuse also seem to flow his comments about the victim of a rape who becomes pregnant in 2014 he said:

“That is a tragic and difficult situation but should the ultimate victim of that terrible act [rape] – which is the unborn child – should he or she also be punished for what has happened by having their life terminated? No.”

There seems to be no realisation that the ultimate victim of any unwanted sexual encounter is the woman who has suffered. It is her body that has been violated, her emotions that have become distraught, her rights that have been abused. It leads to the question does the Health Minister really understand abuse in any situation.

Mr Wells also during the break between the first debate and vote on equal marriage in Stormont was in front of one of members, whom he had meet before, in the restaurant. When the member said hello and was about to ask how his wife and family were, was shunned by Mr Wells with the comment “Oh, you’re one of them!” before he turned heel and ended the civil on the part of our member’s conversation.

Here is Mr Wells’ response after the hustings debate last night:

“The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for me personally. I had just come from a hospital visit and my focus was not on the debate. Indeed, during the event I received several messages from the hospital.

“I have listened to a recording of the relevant part of the debate. I accept that one line of what I said caused offence and deep concern amongst members of the audience and beyond. 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.

“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. This clarification has been confirmed by the journalists present at the event. Partial clips, spin and selective reporting regrettably miss this.

“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.”

If we give Mr Wells the benefit of the doubt over the first sentence we would like to ask why has he made the past few weeks and next couple even more difficult for himself by standing for election in another legislature at this difficult personal time. Clearly this thought wasn’t to the forefront of his mind when he signed the papers allowing himself to be nominated as the DUP candidate for South Down.

But on the matter of an issue such as abuse which falls under his Health and Social Care remit he should surely be aware of the sensitive nature of his comments and the facts about the situation here in Northern Ireland. While he has the right to say he is opposed to same-sex marriage he does not have the right to make up statistics, facts and vilify every lesbian, gay or bisexual person in Northern Ireland in doing so.

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Filed under Equal Marriage, Health, NI Assembly, Westminster, young people

No evidence for NI upholding Blood Ban

The Department of Health, Social Services and Personal Safety have revealed in a Freedom of Information request to the BBC that former Minister Edwin Poots and current Minister Jim Wells have not had any medical evidence to support the continuation of the lifetime blood donation ban for men who’ve had sex with other men (MSM).

After spending over £40,000 of tax payers money to appeal Lord Justice Treacy’s ruling that maintaining the ban was irrational this is galling news. We have ministers elsewhere having to make cuts to public spending when the DHSSPS have been frivolously throwing it away on this court case. Without scientific evidence what other basis could there be for the DUP Ministers in the Department continuing on a path that diverges from the other three health ministers in the UK? Even the minister in the Republic of Ireland has said he is considering following GB in lifting the lifetime ban.

The only reason that not one but two DUP ministers can have reached the same “decision” is that they are prejudiced in some way towards bisexual and gay men (even those who only had a brief dalliance with another man in their youth). This is nothing new for the DUP but it is becoming a worn record. I say it once again without any evidence this is institutionalised homophobia. There is an irrational fear amongst the DUP about all things LGBT, the latest incarnation of which is the conscience clause that would allow that institutionalised homophobia to spread out into shops, businesses and services.

The Liberal Democrats believe in factual based policy forming. There are no facts to uphold this policy of the DUP, there is indeed evidence that increasing the blood donation pool as in England, Wales and Scotland would have benefits in volume of units available with negligible increased risk, and even that risk is decreasing all the time with advances in testing.

Yesterday we learned that in Canada where there is a ban on giving blood for transfusion, MSM can donate blood for medical research. Which when you think that the point of donating blood is to save lives is still a valid reason for donation. It is one way that the DUP could allow the conscience of MSM who want to help others through blood donation, even if a referral period were to be introduced.

In the meantime we leave you with this thought from TVs own Dr Christian Jessen

Dr Christian

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Filed under Health, NI Assembly, Stormont

Is DUP Institutionalising Homophobia?

Picture courtesy of The Bavarian Orange Order Blog

If there had only been one instance of the DUP refusing to engage with the LGBT community in Northern Ireland you might put it down to an oversight. However, there have been a number of high profile instances in the last 12 months.

First we had the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration draft strategy, but seeing as that overlooked all manner of groups not just LGBT it can be seen as merely not addressing anything other that sectarianism and racism. The fact that LGBT, disability, women and victims were amongst the groups which they felt able to cohese, share and integrate without strategic assistance is beyond reproach but cannot be isolated.

Then we did of course have the DUP’s development and aid spokesperson’s inability to comment over giving aid to Uganda despite that nations LGBT record. The party’s deputy convenor on the health committee then famously failed to turn up at a discussion group on LGBT issues at Pride on the Hill in the Long Gallery at Stormont. After years of failing to engage with the DUP elsewhere you’d have thought they could at least have mustered up the courage to turn up to a meeting at their MLA’s place of work.

Picture Courtesy of Liberal Youth

Picture Courtesy of Liberal Youth

Lately of course we have had the health minister’s refusal to look at lifting the blood ban for men who have ever had sex with other men, and by conjecture the female life-partners of men who have dabbled in the past. I understand that there are a number of sources that I know who are seeking Freedom of Information disclosures into what advise the Minister has received on this matter (we will keep you informed once we know anything). One source of advise that the minister has not heard from is the Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s leading support group and advocates for the LGBT community in the province.

As soon as SaBTO issued their they requested time with the minister. He has over for three weeks later failed to even acknowledge this request let alone agree to a meeting. Yet the minister claims that he has sought all available advise before deciding that Northern Ireland will not follow England, Scotland and Wales in lifting the ban in exchange for the 12 month deferral period. One has to wonder just how complete and balanced the advise the evidence that the minster has received was.

The wider question of course is why is it that ONLY the DUP out of all the parties in Stormont* are not meeting with and discussing LGBT issues in public debate with members of the community? Why do they shy away from meeting such issues?

Some have accused them of using the Northern Irish religious angle to back away from it. But surely the same religion affects the other parties, yet the UUP, Sinn Féin and the SDLP despite the same religious norms having an impact on their members and voters are happy to address this issues based on science not bigotry, ignorance or stigma of a whole section of our community.

So the question has to be asked.

Are the DUP the last bastions (with the exception of the Traditional Unionist Voice) of institutional homophobia in Northern Ireland politics? If they are, under the terms of Section 75 and Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act, are they fit to govern? Surely part of the way to go about desirable promotion of good relations and ensuring statutory obligations are implemented through Equality Schemes is to consult with people of diverse sexual orientations. This appears to be something the DUP are singularly failing to do.

* Well the Traditional Unionist Voice would have to count as well but as Jim Allister seems opposed to almost everything, including sitting down we can’t accuse him of being merely homophobic, progressphobic, co-operationphobic, peacephobic have to be thrown into his mix.

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Filed under Health, Stormont