Northern Ireland news

Alison Bennington election a watershed for DUP

Newly-elected DUP councillor Alison Bennington. Picture by Mal McCann

DESPITE open opposition from some members of her own party, the election of the first openly gay DUP candidate, Alison Bennington, signalled a watershed moment.

While the party's opposition to same-sex marriage has not changed, the selection of Ms Bennington was viewed as significant.

Gaining 856 first preference votes, she was elected on the sixth count to secure a seat on Antrim and Newtownabbey council.

She has previously stressed that her private and personal life is irrelevant and avoided giving interviews following her election.

DUP leader Arlene Foster also said she believed there had wrongly been some conflation between Ms Bennington’s sexuality and her party’s stance on same-sex marriage.

"The two should not be seen as coming together because Alison signed up to the policies that we stand on, and we stand as you know on the policy that marriage is between a man and a woman."

She added that Ms Bennington, who has been fully supported by the party leader, joined the DUP believing it was the best way to help secure the union.

However, not every member of the DUP was as supportive of the newly-elected councillor.

Former DUP minister Jim Wells claimed Ms Bennington would have attracted votes "not just from DUP, but from a wider range of people who wanted to make a point".

He claimed his former party leader Ian Paisley, who once led a campaign to 'Save Ulster from Sodomy', would be "aghast".

Previously Mr Wells claimed that the selection of Ms Bennington "fundamentally undermines the values and traditions of the party".

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