DUP's Jim Wells says party leaders hung him out to dry over conservative views

A veteran DUP politician has accused his party leadership of hanging him out to dry over his conservative views.

In a stinging attack, Jim Wells also claimed the party had reneged on a promise to reinstate him as health minister after his controversial resignation three years ago.

He said: "I am an old-fashioned dinosaur. I do not believe in abortion. I believe that a man should marry a woman. I do not believe in euthanasia of the elderly; the legalisation of cannabis or all- night drinking.

"I am old-fashioned and there is no room for people like myself."

Mr Wells, who has been a DUP member for 43 years, an MLA for 24 years and was a councillor for 11 years, is among the longest serving public representatives at Stormont.

He was appointed health minister in 2014 but stepped down the following April after being falsely accused of linking child abuse to same sex marriage.

Mr Wells said he offered to stand aside to prevent "damage" to the party in the run up to the general election but understood he would be reinstated "once the dust had settled".

His wife had also suffered a severe stroke and is still receiving round-the-clock care.

"Peter Robinson made the commitment that I would return," he said.

"Then Arlene (Foster) took over as leader and Arlene, as leader of the party officers, ignored my two written requests for that commitment to be honoured."

At a meeting of party officers in May 2016, he said DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told him he would not be returning as health minister.

Mr Wells added: "The party leadership watched me go through the worst of times and they never once picked up the phone.

"To be honest, I think they were delighted someone had shot me and horrified to find that she had used dummy bullets and that I was twitching in the coffin.

"I was the embarrassing uncle at the Christmas party and they were glad to get rid of me."

Despite expecting disciplinary action as a result of his candid remarks, Mr Wells said he felt compelled to speak out.

He said: "I thought I might as well be hung for a herd of sheep as a lamb.

"I am just, quite frankly, fed up. I have kept nagging about this promise but they have done nothing.

"Actually I just wanted to come back for about six months and then resign to look after my wife, who is seriously ill.

"I expect the world will fall in on me at any moment. They will throw the book at me for speaking out but I felt this was my last chance. This is my only opportunity to clear my name.

"If it had been anybody else in the party they would have been brought back in a blaze of publicity. But I was the embarrassing uncle at the Christmas dinner.

"My views are very conservative."

Meanwhile, Mr Wells was also critical of a number of senior unelected officials who he claimed have become "all powerful".

He said: "They have far too much power."

A DUP spokesman said: "The party is very sorry that Jim Wells has chosen to make the comments that he has across a series of interviews.

"The party, at all levels, has tried to work with Jim given the scale of the challenges he has faced in recent times, including nominating him to paid positions of responsibility in the Assembly.

"What has been said today is inaccurate. We do not intend to debate these matters in public but they will be dealt with internally, as should be the case.

"We wish Jim well in all the circumstances and difficulties that he faces."

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