The government has responded to a petition by members of the public offended by Iris Robinson’s comments on homosexuality.

The petition called on the Prime Minister to reprimand the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party MP, who caused outrage by claiming that homosexuality could be ‘cured’ and comparing it to child abuse.

The petition, posted on the official website of the Prime Minister’s office, said:

‘The MP for Strangford has recently suggested that all homosexuals should receive psychiatric treatment to help ‘cure’ them.

‘These comments are not fitting of a MLA let alone an MP.

‘They show narrow minded views and the belief that in Northern Ireland that bigotry is acceptable.’

In response to the petition, the government has published the following response on Number10.gov.uk:

‘There is no constitutional role for the Prime Minister to reprimand individual Members of Parliament who are accountable to their electorate for their own comments.

‘The Government is committed to strong equality legislation in Northern Ireland and citizens in Northern Ireland are protected against discrimination on grounds of race, religious belief or political opinion, gender, sexual orientation, age or because of a disability.

‘If anyone in Northern Ireland believes that they have been discriminated against on any of these grounds they may be able to bring a complaint to a tribunal or to a county court.

‘Further details are available from the Equality Commission whose website is at www.equalityni.org.

‘In respect of sexual orientation specifically, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 make it unlawful for employers and others to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in the areas of employment, vocational training and further and higher education.

‘The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 extend the protection against discrimination to the provision of goods, facilities and services, the management and disposal of land or premises and the provision of education in schools.

‘In addition, section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires designated public authorities to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between 9 different groups: religious belief; political opinion; race or ethnic group; age; marital status; sexual orientation; gender; disability; and persons with dependants.

‘The Government’s vision is an equal, inclusive society in Northern Ireland, where everyone is treated with respect and where opportunity for all remains a priority.’