The wife of Northern Ireland’s First Minister has said she is the victim of a “witch hunt” trying to prevent Christians from speaking out against homosexuality.
Iris Robinson, who is an MP and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, today remained defiant, despite calls for her to stand down as chair of the Assembly health committee.
Last week she caused outrage when she said she could put gay people in touch with a psychiatrist who can turn them straight.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster she also agreed that homosexuality is “disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile.”
“I am defending the word of God,” she told the BBC today.
“I think at the moment there is a witch hunt to kerb or actually stop or prevent Christians speaking out and I make no apology for what I said because it’s the word of God.”
Mrs Robinson repeated that she condemns the “sin” of homosexuality but not the sinner.
“Just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ so can a homosexual.”
Police in Northern Ireland are investigating whether Mrs Robinson has committed any offence, such as incitement to hatred after a string of complaints about her radio interview.
Sinn Fein, who are in coalition government with Mrs Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party, have condemned her.
“I think that such an outrageous comment from Mrs Robinson calls into question her suitability as chair of the Assembly health committee,” said Martina Anderson, a Sinn Fein MLA.
Yesterday her husband Peter Robinson, who last week took charge of the coalition Northern Ireland Executive, said that he is committed to his legal obligations to fight discrimination.
The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is tasked with ensuring equality for gay people in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Robinson said today that her comments had “nothing to do with Peter” and reflected only on her.
The Deputy Leader of the Ulster Unionist Assembly Party, Danny Kennedy MLA, urged Iris Robinson to avoid damaging the reputation of Northern Ireland in terms of equality for all its citizens.
“It is highly regrettable that Iris Robinson has spoken in a manner which appears to suggest that she is less than committed to treating all citizens equally and fairly,” he said.
“Her comments would not be acceptable anywhere in mainstream British political life.
“Those of us who hold positions of influence also have a duty to promote equality and fairness for all.
“Given that Mrs. Robinson is the wife of the First Minister – a fact which she made mention of during her reported comments – she has a particular responsibility in this regard.
“I would urge Iris Robinson to ensure that when she speaks in future on these matters, she avoids speaking in a manner which potentially harms not only the devolved institutions, but also the people of Northern Ireland.”