N. Ireland Politics

DUP's Jim Wells 'to avoid assembly election hustings'

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Media captionIn the general election last year, several news stories came out of hustings events

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MLA Jim Wells has said he will not take part in hustings events ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly election.

The South Down MLA quit his job as health minister after he became embroiled in a controversy over comments he made at a debate last year.

The DUP has chosen Mr Wells as its candidate for the South Down constituency again in May's poll.

Mr Wells said his party was generally "going to avoid hustings".

During a hustings in Downpatrick in ahead of the 2015 Westminster election, Mr Wells was accused of making remarks linking child abuse and gay relationships.

Voters

After leaving his role heading the Department of Health, he said he had been "humiliated" and claimed the video had been doctored.

The Public Prosecution Service later said there was insufficient evidence to prove he had committed an offence.

Mr Wells said on Tuesday that "people who attend [hustings] are not ordinary voters".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Jim Wells said people who attends hustings "are people who have axes to grind"

"They are people who have axes to grind who often go there with the sole purpose of trying to undermine candidates of all parties," he said.

Difficult

"Hustings events have become abused and no longer represent a good method of getting your message forward to the public.

"I certainly won't be doing any hustings events again, and I think you'll find that many parties have made the same decision."

A DUP spokesman said the number of hustings events had "grown significantly over the last number of election campaigns".

He added: "It would prove extremely difficult to attend every single event that is organised, therefore we assess all invitations to hustings events on a case by case basis."

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