Alliance European candidate Ian Parsley has demanded an explanation from the Conservative Party leadership on its stance on religious pluralism, after an Ulster Unionist opposed the appointment of the BBC Head of Religious Broadcasting purely on religious grounds.
Cllr Parsley stated: “To have an MLA from any background complaining about an appointment purely on the basis of religion is a desperate reminder of the bad old days. That is what Rev Coulter was doing when he stated the new head of BBC Religious Broadcasting should not be a Muslim.
“The logic of that position is that people should not be appointed to a position on the basis purely of merit, and that people of certain religious background should be deliberately excluded from certain public-funded positions. Is that the position of the Conservative Party too?
“Therefore, I would challenge the UK Conservative Party leadership to clarify its stance. Does it support appointment on merit and accept that people from any background should be entitled to recruitment on merit, or does it wish to bring about a religious carve-up for certain public service positions across the UK?
“To have Conservatives and Ulster Unionists taking directly opposing positions on devolution of justice is, perhaps, a legitimate if confusing matter of policy. However, appointment on merit without fear of religious bias is a fundamental matter of fairness of treatment and equality of opportunity.
“This whole nonsense demonstrates how totally out of touch the old men of the Ulster Unionist Party are with the new generation, including no doubt with many people who voted for that party in good faith through the peace process who will feel let down by such remarks. It is an illustration that the only clear way to state a first preference for a candidate who properly represents the new Northern Ireland – fair, prosperous and cosmopolitan – is to state a first preference for the Alliance Party on 4 June.”