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Jim Wells ends long association with the National Trust over its support for LGBT rights

Jim Wells said he would support other charities rather than the National Trust. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

FORMER Stormont health minister Jim Wells has resigned as a member of the National Trust after the conservation charity showed support for LGBT rights.

The South Down MLA, who quit as health minister in 2015 after making controversial remarks about same sex couples, previously worked for the National Trust as a manager in the 1990s.

However, he said he will no longer help fund the trust following its decision to support LGBT rights.

On Saturday evening Mr Wells tweeted: "I worked for the National Trust for a decade and have been a member for 19 years. I have resigned and will now support other charities."

He said in a later statement that he was "seriously considering leaving it a legacy" but had since changed his mind.

The DUP MLA said there were three reasons for his decision – an article about gay rights in the spring issue of the National Trust's magazine; recent events in England where the charity's volunteers were asked to display rainbow-coloured badges; and "the apparent official representation of the trust at yesterday's gay Pride parade".

"The National Trust is an organisation which does excellent work conserving historic houses, our scenic coastline and beautiful gardens," Mr Wells said.

"It would be very wise to keep out of controversial social issues which have little, if anything, to do with its main objectives."

The National Trust declined to say whether those taking part in Saturday's parade had the charity's authorisation. A spokesman said it would not be making any comment until today.

Ahead of Mr Wells's move, hundreds of National Trust members had reportedly quit over the organisation's initial insistence that volunteers at a property in England wear rainbow coloured lanyards supporting LGBT rights.

Volunteers at Norfolk’s Felbrigg Hall were asked to wear the Pride themed neckwear to celebrate the last lord of the manor, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who was gay.

But the decision provoked a furious backlash from volunteers who accused the trust of "outing" the late owner and infringing on their political freedoms. The trust then reversed its decision at the weekend.

Responding to Mr Well's resignation Alliance leader Naomi Long said she had been inspired to take out membership because of the trust's support.

"I hear Jim left National Trust for supporting Belfast Pride...well it prompted me to join," she tweeted.

On Facebook, former Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay posted: "If Jim is going to boycott all organisations and companies using the same criteria he has used for the National Trust he will not be able to use social media outlets, most mainstream phone companies and computer operating systems."

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