The First Minister of Northern Ireland has faced questions in the province’s Assembly about the anti-gay views of his son, who is a junior minister in the devolved government.

Ian Paisley Snr told Assembly members that he is opposed to any sort of discrimination, but would not give an assurance that Ian Jnr would be kept away from equality duties.

Paisley Jnr angered political opponents by giving a magazine interview in which he said he finds gay and lesbian people repulsive.

Paisley Snr was challenged by SLDP’s Dolores Kelly, who said:

“Further to the offensive comments of recent weeks by junior minister Paisley, that minister will have no role in equality legislation in relation to the gay and lesbian community”.

First Minister Paisley responded:

“No, I am not in a position to give those assurances – this House is sovereign, this House is Pope.”

When asked if he agreed with his son about gay people, Mr Paisley dodged the question.

Mr Paisley Jnr, 41, told Hotpress magazine:

“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.”

It was the Rev Ian Paisley’s first appearance at the Northern Ireland Assembly’s version of Prime Minister’s Questions.

He had earlier assured the Assembly that he and all the ministers in the Executive, made up of representatives from four of the major parties, supported equality and, “opposed to any form of discrimination or harassment against any citizens.”

However, it emerged last week that Mr Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, the largest in Northern Ireland, will block moves towards gay adoption in the province.

They also oppose adoption by all unmarried couples.

Last week Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, rejected an attempt to overturn the current law banning adoption by unmarried couples of any sexual orientation.

On the BBC’s Inside Politics, programme, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said:

“It remains my view that a married relationship is the best relationship for adoption.

“The DUP will vigorously oppose any move in Northern Ireland to introduce gay adoption. We do not believe it is right that a child should be placed into a gay relationship.”