A minister in the government of Northern Ireland has caused outrage with homophobic comments made in a magazine interview.
Ian Paisley Jnr, who is the son of the Democratic Unionist First Minister, told Hotpress magazine that lesbians and gay men harm society.
Mr Paisley, who was once dubbed the “baby dinosaur of the 21st century,” has been criticised by gay equality organisation Stonewall.
He was appointed a junior minister in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister by his father only three weeks ago. He represents North Antrim in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Mr Paisley, 41, told Hotpress:
“I am, unsurprisingly, a straight person.
“I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society.
“That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do.”
Stonewall’s head of parliamentary and public affairs, Alan Wardle, commented:
“The idea that gays and lesbians harm society is deeply offensive.
“He is a disgrace making these comments when he is an elected politician representing all people and as a minister he should know better.
“His language is deeply distressing not only to gay and lesbians but to right-thinking members of society.
“If he made these comments about black or Asian people he would be hounded out of office.”
Mr Paisley Snr is head of the Free Presbyterian church, which he founded in 1951.
He led a campaign against the decriminalisation of homosexuality called “Save Ulster From Sodomy”
The Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this month that the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will give £180,000 over a 12-month period to promote equality for the gay community, working with LGBT groups in the province.
The distribution of government money to gay groups is bound to cause more unrest among die-hard DUP members and Free Presbyterians.
A Free Presbyterian preacher previously demanded that the new DUP government minister for culture, Edwin Poots, block a grant to Belfast Pride, calling it a “celebration of sodomy.”
However, in an interview with PinkNews.co.uk last week the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, assured gay people in the province that the presence of homophobic DUP members in the government would not lead to the removal of gay rights.
“Because of cross-community voting you couldn’t make a change to unravel or repeal the legislation I introduced on goods and services,” he said.
“I think there is a great respect for the law among members of the DUP, whether they approve of it or not, and I don’t think you will find there is any attempt to unravel it.
“And if there were, in the way that the devolved government acted administratively or in terms of resources, it will be challengeable in the courts, and the courts would find against the government so that means its not going to happen.
“The gay community can feel quite comfortable in that.”