A junior minister in the Northern Ireland government who was heavily criticised last year for calling gay people repulsive has resigned.

Ian Paisley Jnr has come under pressure over his links with property developers and lobbyists.

“With a certain degree of sadness I have informed the First Minister of my intention to resign from ministerial office,” he said.

“I can’t express strongly enough that I am not going because of some hidden or some revealed wrongdoing on my part.

“The past 10 months have not been without controversy.

“Personal criticism, unfounded allegations, innuendo and attacks on me personally … this relentless period of criticism by those who have decided on this path has been unceasing.

“The criticism has been a distraction and has got in the way of the activities of this government and importantly it has gotten in the way of the activities of my political party.”

UTV reports that “a series of stories about his lobbying on behalf of North Antrim businessman Seymour Sweeney, who was behind a failed bid to build a privately-run visitors’ centre at Northern Ireland’s top tourist attraction, the Giant’s Causeway, had taken their toll.”

Mr Paisley Jnr will not be resigning as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The son and namesake of the Democratic Unionist First Minister told Hotpress magazine in May 2007 that lesbians and gay men harm society.

He was appointed a junior minister in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister by his father, the department with responsibility for equality issues.

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.”

His comments were heavily criticised by partners in the coalition government in Northern Ireland, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who assured the gay community that Paisley Jnr was not speaking on behalf of the devolved administration.

Despite calls for him to resign, he defended his homophobia in a Radio 4 documentary, The House I Grew Up In, broadcast last year.

He claimed that his views were backed by the Bible, and he was entitled to express them.

Mr Paisley Snr was until recently the head of the Free Presbyterian church, which he founded in 1951.

He led an unsuccessful campaign against the decriminalisation of homosexuality called “Save Ulster From Sodomy.”

Mr Paisley Jnr was nominated for the Stonewall Bigot of the Year award 2007 but lost out to the Bishop of Hereford.