In a new interview Graham Norton slams Irish broadcaster RTE for paying €85,000 in damages to a Catholic anti-gay marriage group.

The gay comedian and BBC presenter used rather more measured language on Twitter earlier this month, describing it as an “unbelievable” decision.

But in an interview published on Thursday by Hot Press, Norton pulls no punches.

“I’m not registered to vote in Ireland but I do pay the licence fee there and I’m fucking furious that some of my money has gone to these idiots,” he said. “RTE settling wasn’t gutless, it was absolutely moronic!”

RTE defended its decision to settle with the Iona Institute and several journalists because of comments made by a drag artist on one of its shows.

Rory O’Neill, whose alter ego is Panti Bliss, had called them “homophobes” on an RTE programme broadcast last month.

The broadcaster said it had no choice but to settle and award damages due to Ireland’s defamation laws.

Glenn Killane, managing director of television at RTE, warned that contesting the case could have cost RTE, which is funded by Irish taxpayers, even more money.

However, Graham Norton said it was wrong of anti-equal marriage to have gone to court in the first place.

“I want to ask these people, ‘Why are you so scared and intimidated by the idea of gay marriage?’” he said. “There’s nothing positive in their life; what drives them is fear. They love using language – they’re ‘pro-this’ but actually they’re just against stuff.

“It’s a really horrible, sucking the joy out of life attitude, so you feel sorry for them.”

He added: “The Iona Institute, and people like that, are like rats trapped in the corner of a barn. They know the jig is up. That’s why they’re screaming so loud.”

“I’m actually glad that these journalists and the Iona Institute exist,” Norton told Hot Press. “The great thing about extremists is that they drag everyone towards the centre. That’s why they exist. You hear their opinions and suddenly you’re a little bit more tolerant – because you don’t wanna be them!”