Northern Ireland

Rev David McIlveen 'won't vote DUP' due to openly gay election candidate

Rev David McIlveen was speaking about Alison Bennington being the DUP's first openly gay election candidate
Rev David McIlveen was speaking about Alison Bennington being the DUP's first openly gay election candidate

A PROMINENT Free Presbyterian and close friend of the late Ian Paisley has said he will not vote for the DUP after the party endorsed its first openly gay election candidate.

Rev David McIlveen said he cannot "dictate to anyone how they should vote" but "personally it is a major issue for me out of conscience".

The Irish News last week revealed council election candidate Alison Bennington is the DUP's first openly gay politician.

The DUP has a long history of hostility towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, including ex-party leader Mr Paisley's 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign in the 1970s.

Rev McIlveen yesterday said the DUP selecting an openly gay candidate has "caused a large degree of consternation among many" and could "weaken their electoral support".

He said Ms Bennington could be a "very capable woman, but she will know that some who support her political party will find it impossible to vote for her".

"Over the years I have consistently believed that the act of homosexuality is a deviation from the moral standard of the word of God and should never be accepted or endorsed by any legislature," he said.

Asked whether he would vote for the DUP given the selection of an openly gay candidate, he told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show: "I will not be voting for a party that doesn't conform to the belief that I personally and humbly espouse."

He added: "I do think that it is causing a number of people to question whether they can support the DUP or not."

Ms Bennington, an Antrim and Newtownabbey council candidate, runs a consultancy firm and has a long-term partner.

She previously worked in local government and her qualifications include an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Ulster University.

Ms Bennington said she is seeking election based on what she can deliver for voters, "not based on my sexual orientation".

The DUP has described her as an "excellent candidate".

But party MLA Jim Wells said it "fundamentally undermines the values and traditions of the party" and the late Mr Paisley would be "aghast".

Ian Paisley Jnr, who has previously said he is "repulsed by gay and lesbianism", declined to comment earlier this week 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.