Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots believes his party’s opposition to same-sex marriage makes it a good choice for social conservative Catholics.

The Democratic Unionist Party has traditionally been overwhelmingly Protestant, but Mr Poots has signalled that Catholics who are not happy with Sein Fein’s stance in favour of equal marriage should consider voting DUP.

The Belfast Newsletter reports Mr Poots said: “I actually think there is an educated, conservative Catholic vote out there, which the DUP is probably best placed to pick up. They want to ensure their kids get a good education, they are supportive of the doctrines of their Church.

“The doctrines of their Church largely coincide with the DUP. So conservative Protestantism and conservative Catholicism have an awful lot in common.”

Mr Poots pointed out that, although the SDLP opposed abortion, the party was in favour of same-sex marriage, while Sinn Fein was in favour of both equal marriage and abortion in some circumstances.

DUP Assembly Member Paul Givan added: “How can you vote for Sinn Fein and the SDLP if you are opposed to gay marriage?” he asked. “Sinn Fein certainly, their stance on abortion wouldn’t be in line with the Catholic Church.”

However, Mr Givan, along with several other DUP members, view the divide separating Catholics and Protestants as unlikely to be bridged solely on the basis of shared social conservatism.

The DUP has continuously voted against attempts to legalise same-sex marriage.

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.

DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has recently been criticised for defending a Christian preacher who believes Islam is “Satanic”.

Pastor James McConnell also said same-sex marriage resembles “Sodom”.

In June 2008, Peter Robinson endorsed his wife’s views that gay people could be ‘cured’ of their sexual orientation.

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.”