An Irish bishop has compared homosexuality to Down’s syndrome , while claiming it is not “what God intended”.

The Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, made the claim to NewsTalk Breakfast radio this morning, ahead of the Spring Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

When questioned as to whether he believed being born gay was as God intended Doran responded: “That would be to suggest that if some people are born with Down’s syndrome or Spina Bifida, that that was what God intended either.”

The host countered his view, stating: “You’ve mentioned conditions and disabilities; your sexual orientation is not a disability.”

The interview comes as a same-sex adoption bill is being discussed by the Irish Parliament – and ahead of the country’s equal marriage referendum on May 22.

When asked whether he believed gay couples have the right to marriage he responded: “Everyone above a certain age has the right to marry but I can’t marry my mother and I can’t marry my sister, and by the same token, I can’t marry someone of the same sex.

His contention with gay couples as parents centred around his belief that same sex relationships are not geared towards procreation adding: “A same sex relationship includes some of the elements of marriage, such as love, and care, affection and perhaps a long term commitment but it doesn’t include the openness to procreation which is one of the essential dimensions of marriage.”

He went on to say of gay and straight marriage: “One […] is of its very nature, directed towards the upbringing, the care of children, and one which isn’t and they can’t be said to be the same.”

Speaking in response to the host’s suggestion that gay men and women throughout Ireland are already parents, he claimed: “But they’re not parents.”

Dr Richard O’Leary of Faith in Marriage Equality said: “Not all people of faith share Bishop Doran’s view that gay parents are not parents… Bishop Doran should not seek to marginalise gay parents but rather he should acknowledge that parenting is about the quality of the love that the parents provide.”