The leader of Ulster Unionist Party has withdrawn the party whip from Lord Maginnis over his homophobic remarks.

Mike Nesbitt held a meeting with the former MP, and now a cross-party peer, after the latter described homosexuality as ‘unnatural and deviant,’ and a ‘rung on the ladder to bestiality.’

Mr Nesbitt had already condemned the remarks, and held an extraordinary meeting with his fellow party-members today. After the meeting, the UUP released a statement, saying: “The Ulster Unionist Party has long upheld a tradition of its members being able to express their views and vote accordingly on matters of personal conscience.”

The UUP leader holds that civil partnership provides the same benefits as marriage and therefore opposes marriage equality.

Lord Maginnis, meanwhile, has said he was disappointed by Mr Nesbitt’s decision. In a statement to the BBC, he said: “You can’t withdraw a party whip from somebody who is a cross-bench peer. I quite simply see this as a shallow, meaningless gesture.”