Northern Ireland’s only health project for gay and bisexual men has said that statements from a local MP comparing homosexuality to child abuse “will add more fuel to the fires of prejudice and bigotry.”

In an angry public statement, the Rainbow Project said it was “astounded by the further homophobic comments made by Iris Robinson; this time in the House of Commons.”

Mrs Robinson has courted controversy in the two months since her husband Peter became First Minister.

During a BBC Radio Ulster interview in June the MP for Strangford offered to introduce gay men to a “Christian psychiatrist” who could make them heterosexual.

She has refused to modify her position that homosexuality is vile, wicked and an abomination, based on her Biblical beliefs.

It emerged yesterday that during a June 17th House of Commons committee discussion on the assessment and management of sex offenders, Mrs Robinson said:

“There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

She claims that she meant that child abuse is worse than homosexuality.

Rainbow Project said her comments were not only “beyond contempt” but will expose the gay community in Northern Ireland to continued “violence, abuse and harassment.”

“To make a correlation between an informed consensual act between two adults and the horrors of abuse that are perpetrated against children is vile, cruel and hate-filled,” said David McCartney of the Rainbow Project.

“For the author of such comments to then describe this sustained campaign of anti-gay propaganda as ‘ a loving Christian act ‘ defies all logic.

“Political and religious leaders have publicly condemned the blatant homophobia and spoken about the levels of crime and harassment that the gay community faces here.

“This misguided politician does not speak for Christianity, rather only for a narrow band of extremists.

“The thugs that perpetrate hate will readily lap up whatever encouragement that they can find.

“It does not take much to inspire the misguided to violence; and the hatred spouted by some will add more fuel to the fires of prejudice and bigotry.

“Mrs Robinson is playing with people’s lives; we hope and pray that the end result is not more prejudice, blighted lives or even bloodshed.”

Rainbow Project lobbies for equality of opportunity and strategic approaches to improving understanding and relations between people of different sexual orientations.

Mr McCartney’s comments were backed by SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell.

“It raises serious questions about her fitness to sit in a position of responsibility,” he said.

“She may not intend it to be such but the remarks create space for all sorts of homophobic attacks.”