BELFAST (Reuters) – Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which has consistently opposed the introduction of gay marriage in the British region, on Friday welcomed the election of its first openly gay candidate.
The DUP, whose 10 seats in the British parliament prop up the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, has repeatedly vetoed gay marriage despite opinion polls that indicate it is supported by a significant majority in Northern Ireland.
Alison Bennington was elected to the Antrim and Newtownabbey Council, results showed.
“It sends out a message that the DUP is open to everyone who signs up to the policies of the Democratic Unionist Party, as Alison did,” DUP leader Arlene Foster told Northern Ireland’s UTV television.
“There are people who are uncomfortable, I think it would be right to acknowledge that, but as I indicated last week, our policy in relation to same-sex marriage has not changed,” she said.
Foster welcomed what she described as a strong showing in the elections, which come days before planned talks between the DUP and Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein on restoring Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, which collapsed two years ago.
Early results showed relatively strong performances for both parties, which are expected to compete for first place. The DUP’s rival, the Ulster Unionist Party, appeared to have lost support, while the non-sectarian Alliance Party and Green Party both looked set to gain seats.
Reporting by Amanda Ferguson and Conor Humphries; Editing by Janet Lawrence