Northern Ireland politicians are calling on the UK government to repeal the Sexual Orientation Regulations to be introduced in the province in the New Year, until the Assembly is fully restored.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has tabled an Early Day motion to Parliament asking for the law to be delayed by the Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, as in the rest of the UK, for further consultation.

His appeal has led to criticism from Sinn Fein members.

The motion calls on the Secretary of State to “recognise the genuine concerns expressed by Christian churches and other religious organisations about certain aspects of the proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations” and aks for Mr Hain to “withdraw the Regulations to allow a similar time for further consultation as in the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Sinn Fein MLA Caitriona Ruane told Ulster Television, part of the ITV network, “The DUP know that this motion not only undermines the equality and human rights agenda but will also stir up the type of homophobic sentiment that leads to discrimination and violence.

“That they appear determined to do so for political gain is outrageous. That any political party, particularly one that would share the leadership of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister which is responsible for such issues, would seek to make political gain out of bigotry is a disgrace.”

She accused the DUP of being homophobic, “People in the gay and lesbian community should not have to take this bullying alone, it is essential that across political and civic society and human rights groups that we stand together to protect and promote the rights of all.”

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott defended the laws which will be introduced across the whole country in April 2007.

He said: “I am not a religious man, but I always understood that religion was about tolerance.

“It is a pity that we do not show more tolerance to different cultures and different religions. We would be a lot better off for it.”