Monday, July 21, 2008

Robinson's rants against homosexuality

In what has become routine from the DUP politician, Iris Robinson, wife of the Northern First Minister Peter Robinson, has - according to the House of Commons log Hansard - launched another tirade against the gay community. According to Hansard, the House of Commons record of debates, she stated "Hansard reported her as saying that "there can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality, than sexually abusing innocent children." Naturally the gay community are outraged at their adult relationships being demonised in this way. But it is hardly surprising considering the long legacy of bigotry emanating from that party over the last 36 years of its existence. The Catholic community in the North know only too well that this is the case. Iris Robinson, who just happens to be chairwoman of Northern Ireland’s health committee, caused uproar recently when she told a BBC Northern Ireland radio programme that homosexuality was an “abomination” and that she felt “nauseous” just thinking about it. Needless to say, the gay community did not take kindly to her remarks. Indeed, a complaint was made to the police on the grounds that Mrs Robinson’s comments constituted a crime in that she was fanning the flames of homophobic hatred in a part of the UK that is already a lot more homophobic than most. The province’s first lady was unrepentant and produced the following reply: “I am defending the word of God. I think at the moment there is a “witch-hunt” to curb or actually stop or prevent Christians speaking out and I make no apology for what I said because it is the word of God. But at the same time, I was very careful in saying I have nothing against any homosexual. I love them; that is what the Lord tells me – to love the sinner and not the sin. And, just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ, so can a homosexual.”

Some will argue we need to make allowances for such a bigoted party that played such a huge role in keeping the Troubles going through wrecking the Sunningdale Agreement and nearly wrecking the Good Friday Agreement aswell, but I beg to differ. In September 2004 the British government decided to postpone a vote in the House of Commons on the Civil Partnerships Bill to avoid a clash with talks aimed aimed restoring devolved rule in Northern Ireland. In November 2006 in the NI Assembly, the DUP voted in favour of a motion condemning British government plans for equality legislation for homosexuals, which resulted in a 39-39 tie and the consequent failure of the motion. Speaking against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, Jeffrey Donaldson claimed the regulations would punish people with deeply held religious convictions, saying "All six of the world`s major religions are opposed to homosexual practice. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all teach that homosexual practice is sinful..Not all Honourable Members may agree with that, but it is a sincerely held view by Christians and people of other faiths. The regulations will interfere with the freedom to manifest to one`s religion because these are new restrictions." In 2007 in a magazine interview, Ian Paisley Jnr. MP commented about homosexuality:"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". As persons constantly in the public eye and responsible for the well being of those they govern, the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland are entitled to be respected by their political leaders. Robinson's, Paisley's and sentiments, like the "Save Ulster from Sodomy" campaign of her former party leader Dr.Paisley, would not look astray in the Ireland of the 1950's - nor indeed of the Ireland of the early 1990's when such prejudices were not uncommon down here in the South. It is surely ironic that the party that once taunted the Republic as "priest-ridden" should now find itself in the position of being priest-ridden in its attitude to moral issues and more so than the South, which has transformed socially and in its attitudes to religion in the last 16 years in particular.

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