Jim Wells (politician)

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Jim Wells
Jim Wells DUP.jpg
Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
In office
23 September 2014 – 11 May 2015
Preceded by Edwin Poots
Succeeded by Simon Hamilton
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for South Down
Assumed office
25 June 1998
Preceded by New Creation
Personal details
Born (1957-04-27) 27 April 1957 (age 59)
Lurgan, Northern Ireland
Nationality British
Political party Democratic Unionist Party
Spouse(s) Grace Wells
Children 3
Alma mater Queen's University, Belfast
Website DUP

Jim Wells (born 27 April 1957) is a Northern Ireland politician from the Democratic Unionist Party and formerly Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Wells is one of six Assembly members for South Down. He was a councillor on Down District Council from 2001 to 2011.[1]

Professional career[edit]

Wells has a degree in geography and a postgraduate diploma in town and country planning from Queen's University Belfast. He was employed as a manager by the National Trust from 1989, before returning to frontline politics in 1998.

Political career[edit]

Wells was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in October 1982. He opposed the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, particularly for the two years after its inception, and frequently confronted Tom King, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in the course of his public engagements.[citation needed]

He was elected to the new Northern Ireland Assembly as DUP representative for South Down in June 1998, following the Belfast Agreement, signed the previous April. He stood unsuccessfully in general elections in Upper Bann in 1983, and in South Down in 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015.

From 1 July 2009 until 24 March 2011, Wells was the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly's Health Social Services and Public Health Committee. In the 2010-15 Assembly, he was appointed to the position of Deputy Chairman of the same committee, serving in this capacity until his unexpected appointment Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in September 2014 [2]

Wells is Deputy Chairman of Assembly All-Party Group on International Development. He is an environmentalist and a Young Earth creationist.[3]

In 2012 after the emergence of the abuse scandal involving Jimmy Savile, Wells called for a removal of a mocked up poster featuring his image and the words Jim'll Fix It (a reference to Savile's television programme of the same name). The sign, erected in Kilkeel in early 2012, had been put up by a local pressure group campaigning to stop the closure of a local care home, Slieve Roe House.[4]

In late 2014 Jim Wells was appointed to the position of Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. During his tenure Wells was responsible for the significant progress of the Mental Capacity Bill, as well as the first steps to implementing the first free Men B vaccination programme for newborns in the UK.[5] Wells was re-elected in the 2016 and 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly elections.[citation needed]

Assembly election, 2011[edit]

Although the Boundary Commission removed the majority unionist-voting Ballynahinch from South Down, Wells still managed to poll over 5,200 first preference votes, a rise of 0.5% from 2007, and was elected on the third count. His Ulster Unionist rival John McCallister polled 4,409 a rise of 1% on 2007.

Wells also suffered an unfortunate accident on the night of the 2011 Assembly Election, displacing his collar bone after removing an election poster. This created a great deal of comment on Twitter and Facebook and was mentioned on UTV election coverage as The DUP's One Arm Bandit.

As Health Minister[edit]

Wells had been tipped to become Northern Ireland's Health Minister during a mid term reshuffle of DUP Ministers. However, this failed to be realised. He continued to court controversy over his views on abortion, gay rights and Pride marches. Wells stated in 2012 that abortion in Northern Ireland should remain illegal except in medical emergencies, without exception for pregnancies resulting from rape.[6] He has said that the foetus was the "ultimate victim" and should not be punished by termination when adoption was possible.[7]

Many political commentators and critics had claimed that the gaffe prone MLA would not be offered the role in the near future because of the importance of implementing health reform known as "Transforming your Care". It was widely believed that the then Health Minister Edwin Poots was seen by his party as a safer pair of hands to handle the review. However, in an unexpected turn of events, the DUP leader Peter Robinson dismissed Edwin Poots and appointed Wells to the Health role in September 2014.[citation needed]

On 21 January 2015, Wells said he continues to support a ban on gay men donating blood. Such bans were lifted in the rest of the UK in 2011; Wells's department had spent £39,000 as of January 2015 fighting a legal appeal of the ban.[8]

Resignation as Health Minister[edit]

During a hustings event on 23 April 2015, Wells was misquoted as saying, "You don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That the child is far more likely to be abused and neglected."[9]

In an accurate transcript released later, it showed that Wells had stated "All evidence throughout the world says the best way to raise children is in a loving, stable, married relationship; the facts show that, the facts show that certainly you don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected (uproar among audience). I say again, I say again, a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non-stable marriage situation, gay or straight."[10]

Wells retracted the statement after a backlash from political leaders and the media and claimed that he was under pressure as a result of his wife's serious illness and that his view was not DUP policy.[11] The views attracted strong criticism from other parties and calls for his resignation. On 24 April 2015, the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed that they had received a complaint and officers were making enquiries.[12] The Public Prosecution Service later confirmed that Wells would not charged. By mid October 2015 the Public Prosecution Service said it was decided that the case did not meet the test for prosecution.[13][14]

On 25 April 2015, it was alleged that Wells, who was doing door-to-door canvassing, called at a lesbian couple's house and during a conversation was critical of their lifestyle. The PSNI said they had received three complaints regarding the conduct of an individual in Rathfriland near Newry on Saturday evening.[15][16] The complaints were not upheld by the PSNI.

On Monday 27 April, Wells announced his resignation as Health Minister, citing his wife's ill health.[16][17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Who We Are:Jim Wells". myDUP.com. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Jim Wells becomes new health minister". BBC Online. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Trust set to review creationist exhibit". The News Letter. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Gordon, Gareth (18 October 2012). "DUP's Wells wants Jim'll Fix It poster removed". BBC News. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Wells announces Meningitis B vaccine programme for Northern Ireland". primarytimes.net. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  6. ^ Rutherford, Adrian (25 August 2012). "DUP's Jim Wells: Abortion should be ruled out for rape victims". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "U.TV - Abortion comments 'out of step' with NI". u.tv. Archived from the original on 31 August 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  8. ^ O'Hara, Victoria (21 January 2015). "Jim Wells: I back Edwin Poots' gay blood ban". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Health Minister Jim Wells' gay abuse remarks: Children's body rejects comments". BBC News. 24 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "How we got Jim Wells wrong, Twitter rage and the redaction of empathy…". Slugger O'Toole. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Wells added: "I regret having wrongly made that remark about abuse and I'm sorry those words were uttered. The comment did not reflect my view nor that of my party."
  12. ^ "Health Minister Jim Wells: Police investigate gay abuse remarks". 25 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Jim Wells not to be prosecuted over gay marriage remarks". BBC News. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  14. ^ ""No matter what I do, I'm determined to clear my name"". Down Recorder. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  15. ^ "Jim Wells: Woman recalls Jim Wells canvassing incident in Rathfriland". BBC. 27 April 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Alexander, Steven; Farrell, Nevin (17 April 2015). "DUP minister Jim Wells quits as gay abuse comments cause huge online backlash". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Jim Wells quits after gay comments". Belfast Telegraph. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
Northern Ireland Assembly (1982)
Preceded by
New creation
MPA for South Down
1982 - 1986
Succeeded by
Assembly abolished
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
New creation
MLA for Down South
1998 -
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Edwin Poots
Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
2014- 2015
Succeeded by
Simon Hamilton

External links[edit]