An apparent message of support for people taking part in the Belfast Pride event on Saturday from DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly has been described as “a surprise” by a party colleague.
On Saturday, while the Belfast Pride event was taking place, the South Belfast MP took to social media website Twitter to write: “Best wishes to all my friends and constituents celebrating today – all should be able to live a proud life free from hate, abuse or persecution.”
Her party colleague, DUP MLA Jim Wells, described the tweet as “a surprise”, but declined to elaborate any further.
Ms Little-Pengelley’s tweet, which did not reference Belfast Pride specifically, was greeted with a mixed response by other social media users.
One Twitter user described her tweet as “disingenuous”, while others welcomed her support.
Former DUP member Ruth Patterson, who now sits as an independent on Belfast City Council, said there are likely others in her former party who take a different approach to homosexuality than the traditionally socially conservative stance the party has taken in the past.
Ms Patterson said: “I saw that tweet and I certainly welcome Emma’s comments. I think she is right to make those comments in her capacity as MP for South Belfast.
“It is good to see that there are some people in the DUP who are not opposed to that way of life. At the end of the day, who are we to judge anyone and the way they live their lives.
“I myself have a gay son and I love him very, very much. I remember some 18 years ago now when he told me he was gay, when he was a young man who was full of guilt and anger and frustration.
“I do appreciate both sides of the coin. I understand that there are people who have their own personal views on homosexuality and they are entitled to that. We are all entitled to our own views but I really wish they might be able to witness, first hand, the effects that that can have on someone.”
Ms Patterson, asked whether there might be some in the DUP with a more liberal view towards homosexuality, said: “That is for those in the DUP but yes, I think there are a number of people who likely share Emma’s views.”
Meanwhile, Pastor Paul Burns of Adullam Christian Fellowship Church, Sandy Row, urged Christians to withdraw their support for the PSNI over the participation of uniformed officers in the Belfast Pride event.
He added: “The PSNI should not have associated themselves with this event.”
And Rev Ian Brown of Martyr’s Memorial Free Presbyterian Church – set up by DUP founder Rev Ian Paisley – has written to PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton to outline his concerns over the participation in the Belfast Pride event of uniformed PSNI officers.
Rev Brown wrote: “To reach a decision that there is justification for some of your officers and vehicles becoming an integral part of a parade that has annually displayed placards containing vicious verbal assaults on true Biblical religion and mercilessly castigated political figures in our Province is nothing short of an outrage.”