Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley's brother-in-law says DUP gay candidate choice Alison Bennington is against 'word of god'

Alison Bennington with DUP colleagues at the election count, and right, Rev James Beggs
Brendan Hughes

THE late Ian Paisley's brother-in-law has criticised the DUP for selecting an openly gay election candidate, branding the decision "contrary to the word of God".

Rev James Beggs, a retired Free Presbyterian minister, said he is "most unhappy" and "totally opposed" to the DUP's choice of Alison Bennington.

Ms Bennington this month became the DUP's first openly gay elected representative after securing a council seat in Antrim and Newtownabbey.

Her election is being seen as a significant step for the party, which has a history of hostility towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

Some DUP members have expressed shock since The Irish News last month revealed Ms Bennington was the party's first openly gay politician.

South Down MLA Jim Wells claimed the move "fundamentally undermines" the party's Christian traditions, while DUP councillor John Finlay said former party leader Mr Paisley – who led a 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign in the late 1970s – would be "turning in his grave".

However, LGBT activists have broadly welcomed it as a "positive development", while DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson described Ms Bennington's election as a "good news story".

The party has said it continues to oppose same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland – the only part of Ireland and Britain where it remains outlawed.

Rev Beggs (84) led the Free Presbyterian Church in Ballymena for around 34 years and was an election agent for Mr Paisley, the church's founder.

Asked yesterday about the DUP selecting an openly gay election candidate, he said: "I approach it from a biblical standpoint. I do not endorse it in any way.

"This decision to run somebody LGBT, I'm totally opposed to that.

"The word of God outlines the fact that it is against homosexuality – that's quite clear from scripture."

He added: "I am most unhappy with the decision the DUP have taken. I believe it is contrary to the word of God.

"That is how I see it from Christian scripture, but I'm making no more comment."

On Monday, Ms Bennington attended the inaugural meeting of the new Antrim and Newtownabbey council, but turned down a request to speak to the media.

Fellow DUP councillor Philip Brett denied suggestions she has been "gagged" by the party.

"She hasn't been gagged. She has just been elected less than a week. It's a very stressful time for her," he told the BBC.

Last month Ian Paisley jnr, who has previously said he is "repulsed by gay and lesbianism", declined to comment when asked about Ms Bennington contesting May's council elections.

"Away and get another story," the DUP North Antrim MP told The Irish News in a phone call, before hanging up.

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