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 61)
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.[1] Wells is one of five Assembly members for South Down. He was a councillor on Down District Council from 2001 to 2011.[2]

Professional career[edit]

Wells was employed as a manager by the National Trust from 1989 until 1998. In 2017, he resigned his membership of the National Trust over the Trusts support for LGBT rights.[3]

Political career[edit]

Wells was elected to serve as a Councillor in Down District Council in 2001, having previously held a seat on Lisburn Borough Council and Banbridge Borough Council. He served on the Council until stepping down at the 2011 election. He was Assembly Member for the South Down constituency initially from 1982 to 1986. He was re-elected in 1998 and is currently in his fifth term having been re-elected in 2017. During that time he served as Deputy Chair of the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety before he was appointed as Minister of Health in September 2014 where he served until his removal in May 2015.[4]

Young Earth Creationism[edit]

Wells is a Young Earth creationist.[5] and along with his DUP colleagues, Nelson Mccausland and Gregory Campbell, he lobbied for the creationism dogma to be included in the Giants causeway exhibition. Initially the National Trust acceded to the request but after coming under pressure from the public withdrew the exhibition in 2012.[6] Wells is not alone in his creationist views,. in 2013 some 40% of DUP activists believe that creationism should be taught in science classes, a Belfast Telegraph survey found.[7]

Creationism Education[edit]

Wells and his colleagues have been accused of being science deniers. In 2014, DUP ministers tried to oppose proposals to introduce local measures against climate change in Northern Ireland.[8]

At an event aimed at promoting the rejection of evolution among children and was endorsed by the MLA who wants to see creationism “taught in every school”.[9]


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 as many within his party thought him too gaffe prone to hold the position.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

In 2015 he also said "The gay lobby is insatiable, they don’t know when enough is enough".[14]

On 6 June 2018, Wells compared abortion rights to the Nazi Holocaust on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show,[15] describing the calls for Westminster to change Northern Ireland's abortion laws as a "ghastly situation". He would later go on to clarify that he only meant to make the comparison to the Holocaust in relation to the "numbers" involved. Arlene Foster responded to Wells comments by saying "I think it's the wrong use of language" when discussing a "very emotive issue".

Resignation as Health Minister[edit]

During a hustings event on 23 April 2015, Wells was quoted 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."[16]

In an 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."[17]

Wells retracted the statement after a backlash from political leaders and the media. He claimed he was under pressure as a result of his wife's serious illness and that his view was not DUP policy.[18] 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.[19] The Public Prosecution Service later confirmed that Wells would not be charged. By mid October 2015 the Public Prosecution Service said it was decided that the case did not meet the test for prosecution.[20][21]

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.[22][23]

On Monday 27 April 2015, Wells announced his resignation as Health Minister, citing his wife's ill health. However, even DUP sympathetic press believed the real reason was down to his anti gay views.[23][24]

By the end of Wells short tenure as Health minister little had changed and no major health reforms had been progressed. By July 2015, Wells was still stinging from his forced removal from health and stated that "I should still be a Minister".[25]

Wells remains an MLA but has lost any significant powerbase within the DUP and now promotes his crusade to expose the truth about his resignation, stating on Belfast Live: “After four decades of work and dedication to the public I basically landed on the scrap heap because I felt I had to resign. I was abused and accused and it was all nonsense but for the sake of the DUP, I had to go, I had to sacrifice myself." [26]

Loss of party whip[edit]

Approaching the third anniversary of his sacking as Health Minister, Wells made allegations in the Belfast Telegraph in April 2018, that special advisors, the Press office and Leadership of the DUP reneged on a promise to re-instate him as health Minister.[27] On Monday 9 April he appeared on BBC Talkback and lambasted the DUP leadership, Press office and special advisors.[28] As a result of his attacks, the party withdrew the whip from Wells in May 2018.[29] This reduced the DUP to 27 seats in the Assembly, the same number as Sinn Féin.[30]


  1. ^ "MLA Details". Northern Ireland Assembly. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  2. ^ "Who We Are:Jim Wells". myDUP.com. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  3. ^ https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/jim-wells-cuts-ties-with-national-trust-over-gay-pride-issues-36004835.html
  4. ^ http://www.mydup.com/who-we-are/jim-wells
  5. ^ "Trust set to review creationist exhibit". The News Letter. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  6. ^ 2012.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-19814284
  7. ^ https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/party-conference-teach-creationism-in-science-class-40-of-dup-29781222.html
  8. ^ https://www.newscientist.com/article/2134162-five-things-you-need-to-know-about-dup-politicians-and-science/
  9. ^ http://www.irishnews.com/news/2016/09/21/news/mla-backs-conference-promoting-the-teaching-of-creationism-in-schools-702781/
  10. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-32614604
  11. ^ Rutherford, Adrian (25 August 2012). "DUP's Jim Wells: Abortion should be ruled out for rape victims". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  12. ^ https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/09/24/jim-wells-abortion-northern-ireland_n_5872632.html
  13. ^ O'Hara, Victoria (21 January 2015). "Jim Wells: I back Edwin Poots' gay blood ban". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  14. ^ "From abortion to evolution: the terrifying views of the DUP you need to know". The Independent. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017. 
  15. ^ "DUP MLA Jim Wells compares abortion to Nazi Holocaust". BBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2018. 
  16. ^ "Health Minister Jim Wells' gay abuse remarks: Children's body rejects comments". BBC News. 24 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "How we got Jim Wells wrong, Twitter rage and the redaction of empathy…". Slugger O'Toole. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  18. ^ 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."
  19. ^ "Health Minister Jim Wells: Police investigate gay abuse remarks". 25 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Jim Wells not to be prosecuted over gay marriage remarks". BBC News. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  21. ^ ""No matter what I do, I'm determined to clear my name"". Down Recorder. 14 October 2015. Archived from the original on 23 March 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  22. ^ "Jim Wells: Woman recalls Jim Wells canvassing incident in Rathfriland". BBC. 27 April 2015. 
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ "Jim Wells quits after gay comments". Belfast Telegraph. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  25. ^ http://www.thedownrecorder.co.uk/pages/index.asp?title=WELLS:_I_should_still_be_a_Minister
  26. ^ https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/belfast-news/former-health-minister-jim-wells-11678316
  27. ^ https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/dup-reneged-on-an-agreement-to-bring-me-back-as-health-minister-says-wells-36786781.html
  28. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/bbc_radio_ulster
  29. ^ Breen, Suzanne (9 May 2018). "DUP's Wells has the whip withdrawn after attack on leadership". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 30 July 2018. 
  30. ^ Cross, Gareth (10 May 2018). "It's a tie: DUP's Wells says removal of whip gives Sinn Fein equal voting power in Northern Ireland". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 30 July 2018. 
Northern Ireland Assembly (1982)
New assembly MPA for South Down
Assembly abolished
Northern Ireland Assembly
New assembly MLA for Down South
Political offices
Preceded by
Edwin Poots
Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety
Succeeded by
Simon Hamilton