DUP minister in gay Pride row
The Democratic Unionist Party are being challenged by their own supporters over a grant from a government department to Belfast Pride.
A Free Presbyterian preacher has demanded that the new government minister block a grant to Pride, calling it a “celebration of sodomy.”
A coalition government will take power in the province next week. Sinn Fein, the DUP, the SDLP and the UUP will all have ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive.
Edwin Poots, the DUP minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, is renowned for his homophobic opinions.
As a councillor in Lisburn he tried to ban gay and lesbian couples from holding civil partnerships in the town hall.
However, Mr Poots has said he will not be intervening in the grants process.
Free Presbyterian minister Ivan Foster told the Belfast Telegraph:
“If it turns out that financial support for a celebration of sodomy is sanctioned by a member or office bearer of the Free Presbyterian Church, then it will underscore the utter futility of the power sharing agreement that has been put together by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
“Far from the DUP elevating the morals of society, it seems that the DUP is going to come down to the level of morality that society demands.”
A Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure spokesperson told the Telegraph:
“NIEC paid grant of £3,000 to Gay Pride under the Community Festivals Fund last year. There is an application in for this year also and this is being considered. All applications are treated equally.”
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The Free Presbyterian Church, founded by DUP leader Ian Paisley, mounts a yearly counter-protest against Belfast Pride at the City Hall.
Last year they even tried to get the Parades Commission to ban the event.
The commission, normally concerned with contentious Orange marches, did not impose any restrictions on the march.
Commission chairman Roger Poole described Belfast Pride as, “a welcome addition to the streetscape of Belfast and in fact is a colourful and positive celebration of all lifestyles which co-exist in the city.”
Free Presbyterian protesters infiltrated the march, handing out extracts from the Bible in protest.
Belfast Pride has been held every year since 1991.