DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has apologised for the barbed, anti-LGBT+ comments made by his party members throughout they years.
During an appearance on Good Morning Ulster on BBC Radio Ulster on Friday morning (2 July), Donaldson was asked about deputy leader Paula Bradley’s history-making apology for the party’s anti-LGBT+ record at a PinkNews reception.
“Well, Paula is the deputy leader of the party and she speaks for the party,” Jeffrey Donaldson told host Chris Buckler.
“There’s no doubt that in the past things have been said that should not have been said across a whole range of issues – and not just by the DUP,” he continued.
“Let’s be clear, Chris. I have seen people on marches and at rallies say things about the DUP that have been hurtful to us and our members as well. I’ve seen things been said about people from faith communities that have been hurtful and should not have been said.”
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said it is ‘right to apologise’
Donaldson said it is “right to apologise” when they’ve said things that are “hurtful to others”.
“There are differences in our society, Chris. Differences and deeply held views on social issues. What I want to see in Northern Ireland is a discourse which is respectful of difference.
“That people can hold their sincerely held views without the need to say things that are hurtful to others. That we can disagree, and that we can disagree well.
“Where we’ve said things that have hurt others, it is right that we say sorry for that. Sorry needn’t be the hardest word.”
Jeffrey Donaldson’s comments come after deputy leader Paula Bradley became just the second DUP representative to take part in an event focussed on LGBT+ rights when she participated in the PinkNews Summer Reception in Belfast on Thursday (1 July).
When asked about her party’s history of anti-LGBT+ comments and actions, Bradley said: “I am not going to defend some of the things that have been said over the years, because they have been absolutely atrocious, they’ve been shocking.”
She continued: “I certainly couldn’t stand by many of those comments, in fact all of those comments, because, because I know the hurt that they caused people and I know that fed into the hatred that some people have had to endure in their life, and I think that’s absolutely wrong.”
Bradley went on to say that the “vast majority” of those who made anti-LGBT+ comments within the DUP are “no longer there”, and said those who remain in the party “have learnt their lessons”.
Donaldson’s and Bradley’s apologies come after a turbulent few months for the DUP. In April, Arlene Foster resigned as leader, with some suggestion within her party that she was ousted in part over her decision to abstain on rather than vote against a motion calling for conversion therapy to be banned.
Edwin Poots was subsequently elected leader, but he lasted just three weeks in the role before he was ousted for appointing Paul Girvan as first minister against the wishes of his party.