Peter Robinson appeared to suffer a severe sense of irony failure yesterday, claiming that he would “never seek” to insult any section of Northern Ireland’s community – from a man who has said homosexuality is an “abomination”.
The First Minister is under pressure for defending firebrand evangelical Pastor James McConnell who believes Islam is “Satanic”.
Mr Robinson, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, said comments made by him in support of Pastor McConnell’s remarks had been “misinterpreted.”
The DUP leader told the Irish News on Wednesday that it was a duty of any preacher to denounce what he described as “false prophesy”.
He went on to say that he would not trust Muslims either, particularly with regard to those who had been involved in violence, or those who are “fully devoted to Sharia law, I wouldn’t trust them for spiritual guidance”.
However, Mr Robinson said he would trust Muslims to “go down to the shops” for him or to deal with a number of other “day to day issues”.
Seeking to end the row, Mr Robinson issued a statement saying: “I would never seek to cause any insult to any section of our community.
“For the avoidance of any doubt I make it clear that I welcome the contribution made by all communities in Northern Ireland, and in the particular circumstances, the Muslim community.”
Mr Robinson’s claim of not wanting to insult any section of Northern Ireland’s community historically appears not to have included the LGBT community.
In June 2008, Mr Robinson endorsed his wife’s views that gay people could be ‘cured’ of their sexual orientation.
Iris Robinson, who resigned as the MP for Strangford in January 2010, called homosexuality an “abomination” that made her feel “sick” and “nauseous”.
She made the comments on BBC Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show, during a discussion about a violent attack on a gay man.
Mr Robinson defended his wife, saying: “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was the Almighty.
“This is the Scriptures and it is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won’t allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views.”
Peter Robinson has also presided over his party’s opposition to LGBT rights during his time as Northern Ireland’s First Minister.
DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots unsuccessfully fought against extending adoption rights to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland and remains in favour of maintaining restrictions on gay men donating blood in the province.
Mindful of the DUP leader’s position, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in April said the matter had to be settled in the Northern Ireland Assembly, despite a High Court ruling requiring him to make a decision.