DUP defends its first openly gay candidate

Alison Bennington is party candidate for the Glengormley urban area of Newtownabbey Borough Council

Alison Bennington who generally shied away from interviews during the election campaign, said she was standing “based on what I can deliver” for voters, rather on her sexual orientation. Photograph: Facebook

Alison Bennington who generally shied away from interviews during the election campaign, said she was standing “based on what I can deliver” for voters, rather on her sexual orientation. Photograph: Facebook

 

The biggest story of the Northern Ireland local elections to date is that of Alison Bennington, who is the DUP candidate for the Glengormley urban area of Newtownabbey Borough Council.

She made the news because she is the DUP’s first openly gay politician. It would be interesting to hear how she reconciles her candidature with her party’s opposition to same-sex marriage but, for the moment, she has stuck to the canvass trail and shied away from interviews.

However, Ms Bennington did tell the Irish News: “I regard my private and family life as a matter for myself in the same way as everyone else.

“I am delighted to have been selected as a DUP council candidate. I am putting myself before the electorate based on what I can deliver for them as a councillor working alongside a strong team of colleagues, not based on my sexual orientation.”

Her wish to protect her private life did not prevent DUP South Down Assembly member Jim Wells from saying that the late former party leader, Ian Paisley, in the light of his Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign of the 1970s, would have been “aghast” she was running under the party banner.

Mr Wells saw it all as a bit of a headquarters coup, complaining that the party was not properly briefed on her candidature and that he had met numerous DUP supporters who were “absolutely shocked”. It was like a “bolt of lightning and rocked the membership in many areas to the core”, he said.

Mr Wells, who lost the DUP whip a year ago after he criticised the party leadership, said Ms Bennington as a candidate totally undermined the “ethos, tradition and history” of the DUP.

The party, on the other hand, appeared very relaxed about the whole matter.

A DUP spokeswoman said Ms Bennington was an “excellent candidate and will make an excellent representative for the people of Glengormley”.

“The party selects candidates on the basis of merit and we believe in equality of opportunity,” she added.