7 June 2007 Edition

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Paisley in homophobic comments row

BY LAURA FRIEL

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has condemned homophobic comments by the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr. During an interview with Hot Press magazine, Paisley Jnr described himself as “repulsed” by gays and lesbians.
The Stormont Junior Minister was quoted as saying, “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and, without caring about it, harm society. That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them, I mean, I hate what they do.”
Paisley Jnr subsequently refused to apologise or withdraw his remarks but attempted to ‘clarify’ his position.
“I do not hate anyone. I was not brought up to hate anyone. I was asked for my view. I do not think my answer was outrageous or offensive. If you look in the Oxford English Dictionary the definition of repulsion, it is disgust. That is my personal opinion and I was honest,” said Paisley Jnr.
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said Paisley Jnr’s comments were at odds with his commitments as a junior minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFDFM).
“Gay rights are enshrined in legislation and we as First and Deputy First Minister have a duty to uphold that,” said McGuinness.
McGuinness said that Ian Paisley Jnr wasn’t speaking on behalf of the OFDFM, that the office would be looking into the matter, but that the responsibility lies primarily with the First Minister, Ian Paisley Snr.
“I certainly think that we have a problem insofar as a junior minister in that department has expressed views which are a total contradiction of everything the OFDFM is charged to do in terms of protecting the rights of all people within our society,” said McGuinness.
Foyle MLA Martina Anderson, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, has said that she is disappointed but not surprised at Paisley’s comments.
“Ian Paisley Jnr, as a junior minister in the OFDFM with responsibility for equality, should not have made these comments. Whatever about his personal beliefs, the fact is that he now has ministerial responsibility for this issue,” Anderson said.
“Ian Paisley Jnr should withdraw these comments and apologise.
“The fact is that comments such as this cause great harm and distress. They feed into the attitudes that fester and lead to homophobic violence.
“OFDFM has a responsibility to promote equality and protect the rights of everyone in our society regardless of religion, sex, race, disability or sexual orientation. This is the law; it is the statutory equality duty that rests on all Minsters in the Executive.”

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