A former DUP Health Minister for Northern Ireland has quit the National Trust over its support of gay rights.
Jim Wells, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for South Down, said he was handing back his membership to the conservation group after almost 20 years after it expressed support for Belfast Pride over the weekend.
On Saturday, the National Trust in Northern Ireland tweeted photos of some of its members taking part in Belfast’s Pride celebrations.
A tweet from the organisation’s Twitter account read, “Really fantastic to be part of #Belfastpride today. Supporting diversity and our LGTB colleagues.”
Mr Wells – who resigned as Health Minister in 2015 being accused of making anti-gay comments about same-sex parenting – worked for the National Trust for a decade prior to his election to Stormont in 1998.
He said he was quitting the group due to the “the apparent official representation of the Trust at yesterday’s Gay Pride parade”, and because of the organisation’s ongoing attempts to highlight LGBT+ history at its properties – including Norfolk’s Felbrigg Hall, where a group of volunteers recently refused to don rainbow-coloured lanyards in protest at the ‘outing’ of the country house’s deceased former owner.
Those who refused to wear the lanyards were offered behind-the-scenes roles, but the Trust subsequently reversed their decision and said wearing them would “optional”, ITV reports.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Belfast for Saturday’s Pride event, which was attended by Ireland’s recently-elected Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is openly gay.
Northern Ireland remains the only part of the British Isles yet to legalise marriage equality, which has been blocked at least four times by the DUP in recent years.
In June, the party agreed to prop up Theresa May’s Conservative minority government at Westminster in exchange for a further £1billion for Northern Ireland over the course of the next parliament.