DUP’s only openly-gay politician: I’m sorry to lose Foster
The DUP’s only openly gay elected representative has said that she is sorry to see the back of Arlene Foster.
But Alison Bennington was tight-lipped about who she may support in the event of any internal party leadership election.
The decision to allow Ms Bennington to stand as a DUP candidate in the May 2019 council elections caused controversy among the more traditionalist faction of the party.
But she was easily voted across the line to her Glengormley Urban Area seat in the north-west of Newtownabbey, polling second among the DUP candidates in terms of first-preference votes with 856 (compared with 1,099 for colleague Phillip Brett).
“It’s up to those who are up in the hierarchy to consider what way they want to take the party forward,” she said, when asked about her preferred direction for the DUP.
When it comes to how she feels about Mrs Foster’s pending departure, she said: “I’m very sorry to see her go. Very sorry.”
But she refused to say who she might back as a replacement, saying: “I don’t have all the detail of who said what or who did what, so I won’t comment on that either until I get that information.
“I’ll just wait and see what the outcome is. I’ll have no say in it, so I won’t I’m sure.”
She was also asked her position on gay marriage – something which she was reluctant to comment on at the time of her election to council.
“I’ll keep that opinion to myself thank you,” she said.
There has been a general drift of some elements of the DUP towards a more socially-liberal stance, which sits uneasily with the many traditional members of the party.
For example, in 2017 the DUP’s Emma Little Pengelly sent her best wishes to “all my friends and constituents celebrating today,” as the Belfast Gay Pride parade was taking place.
Alderman Brett, the DUP group leader on the council and Ms Bennington’s de facto boss, was also asked his view on Mrs Foster’s departure.
“I’m not really saying much at the minute,” he said.
“No-one’s come out to give their hand in term of who may or may not be running.”
It was put to him that Gavin Robinson, Edwin Poots and Jeffrey Donaldson were all being cited as possible leader, but he still said he wants to “wait to see who does declare”.
Alderman Brett was for many years a close aide of DUP deputy Nigel Dodds, until the latter lost his North Belfast MP’s seat in 2019.
He added: “I think the key issue in this is that the party comes together. The party has always been a genuine family.”
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