Homophobic Remarks: DUP

Oral Answers to Questions — Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 27th April 2015.

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Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 27th April 2015

T1. Mr Boylan asked the First Minister and the deputy First Minister, given their responsibility for equality, how the First Minister proposes to address the litany of homophobic remarks made by DUP representatives in the last number of years. (AQT 2401/11-15)

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

I recall how, on many occasions, my predecessor used to tell party colleagues to remember that we are a political party and not a Church. It is the role of Churches and faith groups, not political parties, to direct people's moral positions. However, it is necessary and, at times, unavoidable for parties to take a position on public policy matters as they relate to some of these issues.

One of the three core principles of my party is that everyone is equal under the law and equally subject to it. This party will defend the legal rights of everyone in our community and promote equality of opportunity. My party opposes any form of discrimination, whether it relates to sexual orientation or any other issue. In articulating public policy, we are mindful — I trust that every section of the House will be mindful — of the need for it to be conducted respectfully on all sides. We are dealing with public policy issues that relate to changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. As the law stands, people have the choice of entering into a civil partnership if they are a same-sex couple, or engaging in the ordinance of marriage if they are heterosexual. My party sees no justification for change.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his answer, but I do not think that he has actually answered my question. Let me put it this way: will the Minister outline how such expressed views will not lead to policies that will lead to discrimination? I think that recent views will lead to policies that will discriminate against people. Go raibh míle maith agat.

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

With these issues, we need to be very careful to be proportionate in how we react to comments. The comment was made by a Minister who, for a considerable number of months, carried on his work during the day and sat beside his wife throughout the night as she has undergone operations and been fighting for her life. Immediately that the Minister made the comments, he recognised that they were inaccurate. He sought and got the attention of the chair of the meeting to make a clarification. After the meeting, he gave a fulsome apology, something that we have not had from others for the crimes that they have committed in this society. On foot of that, he recognised that the burden that he carries at present is so great that he needs to take a break from front-line public life. That being the case, I ask people not to take on the characteristics of a lynch mob in these matters. The Minister has apologised and indicated that the facts, as he related them, were inaccurate. I immediately indicated that they were not the views of the party now and nor would they ever be. That is the clearest direction of all that I can give: no policy will be based on information that the person who made the comment has already indicated that he regards as inaccurate.