The leader of a well-respected gay support group in Northern Ireland has accused DUP MP and MLA Iris Robinson of “undoing 10 years of hard work in the LGBT community.”
Sean Morrin, a youth support worker for The Rainbow Project, spoke to PinkNews.co.uk in the wake of comments Mrs Robinson made on BBC Radio Ulster last week.
One of the most prominent politicians in the province, and married to the First Minister, she described homosexuality as disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile and claimed gay people can be “cured.”
“Young gay people are dealing with so much and I think that it is totally outrageous for someone to use the Bible to offend them,” said Mr Morrin.
The Rainbow Project is based in Derry and is the largest group of its kind to work specifically with gay and bisexual men.
“I work as a youth support worker with 14 to 25 year olds,” Mr Morrin explained.
“What I try to do is empower these young men.
“I operate a weekly youth project and we do workshops and activities that make them feel good about themselves.
“We have high rates of self harm and there has been a spate of youth suicide in Ireland recently.
“We know for a fact that some of these cases have been attributed to young people not being able to cope with being gay.”
Mrs Robinson said last week:
“I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.
“I’m happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around to become heterosexual.”
Sean Morrin told PinkNews.co.uk:
“In previous generations this was the norm, but in this day and age you should not be allowed to get away with that and I can’t believe that she feels that she can.
“This is doing untold damage to young gay people.
“These are people who have grown up in a country only recently out of conflict and it’s doubly hard for them because they feel different.
“It’s important to put the message across that you can be a Christian and you can be gay and that is fine.”
Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein deputy First Minister, echoed those sentiments when he said:
“Comments that cause harm and distress to any section of our community are inappropriate and she should reflect fully on the impact that her comments will have.
“Everyone has a responsibility to protect and promote the rights of all our citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.”
“The silver lining,” concluded Mr Morrin, “is that 99% of people have shown a negative reaction to what has been said.
“The young gay people that I work with have seen the outrage that she has caused from all sorts of places, we’ve even had reaction from America.
“It is a source of great encouragement that it is not just members of the gay community who are outraged by her comments, and we have received a lot of encouragment from various MPs.”
Police are investigating whether Mrs Robinson has broken incitement laws.
She has since claimed that she is the victim of a “witch hunt.”