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Jim Wells: DUP assembly team hasn't met since February

Jim Wells said the DUP's assembly team had not met since February. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

FORMER health minister Jim Wells has revealed that the DUP's assembly group has not met since after talks to restore Stormont collapsed in February.

The South Down MLA, who has had the party whip withdrawn over criticism of its leadership, also said he has not seen Arlene Foster for nine months.

Mr Wells, who is the DUP's longest-serving Stormont representative, resigned as a minister in 2015 following controversy over comments relating to same-sex couples.

He is adamant that the DUP leadership reneged on a promise from Peter Robinson that he would be reinstated, a claim the former party leader has denied.

Mr Wells said the last time he saw Mrs Foster, she commented on him wearing a Northern Ireland football shirt.

He said it would not be unusual for a backbencher in his position, who was not a party spokesman or officer, to go long periods without seeing the leader.

Mr Wells also revealed that the DUP assembly team had not held a meeting for 10 weeks.

He said the last time the party's 28 MLAs came together was in late February.

"There was a bit of a flurry of activity after the collapse of the negotiations on St Valentine's Day but since then it's all gone quiet," he told The Irish News.

"I'm not especially surprised by that because there's no assembly and nothing happening."

The DUP has declined to comment on the claim.

The traditionalist and long-time supporter of Ian Paisley also commented on the party's modernisation.

Mr Wells told the BBC: "I think the party is modernising as they would see it and would eventually move towards a more middle-ground policy on those issues.

"There are folk like myself, many particularly in rural areas, who don't like that and I think we have to be reasonable and say there is a bit of an urban/rural split here."

He is adamantly opposed to liberalisation on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

"When I joined in '75 we were a very different party than we are today and I would hold to the views, the traditional views, that I don't believe in same-sex marriage, I don't believe in abortion, I don't believe in euthanasia, I don't believe in all-night drinking," he said.

"Not particularly because of moral points of view but because some of those have been disastrous when they have happened in England."

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