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NI police confirm investigation but not number of complaints about Iris comments

Tony Grew June 10, 2008

A spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland has refused to comment on how many complaints about Iris Robinson they have received.

The MP and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly was reported to police over comments she made on Friday on BBC Radio Ulster.

Mrs Robinson, who is married to Northern Ireland’s First Minister, confirmed on Friday’s Nolan Show that she regards homosexuality as vile, wicked and an abomination.

A fundamentalist Christian, she claimed today that she is the victim of a “witch hunt” for expressing her religious beliefs.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesperson told that an investigation is underway but would not comment on the number of complaints, which she said was normal procedure.

A number of people have spoken publicly about the complaints they have made to the police.

There are also complaints being lodged with the Westminster authorities and the standards board overseeing the Assembly.

On Friday Andrew Muir, the vice chair of Gay and Lesbian across Down, visited Bangor Police Station to report Mrs Robinson for stirring up hatred and arousing fear as a result of her comments.

His hate crime report was passed to South Belfast police for investigation.

Then a member of the South Belfast District Policing Partnership complained to police.

“People like Mrs Robinson need to learn that their comments have consequences,” John O’Doherty told the BBC.

Gay rights activist Robert McDowall contacted yesterday to say he reported the incident to the Northern Irish police, the UK Government and the BBC.

Today the Andersonstown News reported that a Belfast man, Robert Toner, made a complaint the police under the Public Order Act.

“As well as complaining to the police I am prepared to take legal action over this,” he told the paper.

“She is ensuring homosexuals are going to stay frightened and feel like they are second place in society.

“I believe Mrs Robinson has a duty of care to the people in the North of Ireland and I think by making these comments she has failed.”

The Coalition on Sexual Orientation, an umbrella group of LGBT groups in Northern Ireland, called her comments “at best damaging and at worst dangerous; furthermore they are completely unacceptable – indeed an abomination – in pursuance of an inclusive society based on values of dignity, respect and equality.”

Mrs Robinson is married to Peter Robinson, who took office as the First Minister of Northern Ireland on Thursday.

She is MP for Strangford and the chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s health committee.

Speaking on The Nolan Show on Friday, she was asked to comment on a homophobic assault that took place in Newtownabbey.

Stephen Scott, 27, was attacked by a gang of youths last Wednesday and suffered head and leg injuries. The police are calling the incident homophobic in nature.

Mrs Robinson suggested that there are therapies to “cure” people of homosexuality.

She condemned the attack on Mr Scott but added:

“I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.

“And I have met people who have turned around to become heterosexual.”

Mrs Robinson turned down an invitation from gay rights group Rainbow Project to meet with gay and lesbian people and hear about their experiences and concerns.

“I do not need to put my hand into the fire to know I will get burned,” she commented.

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