Warning this article contains extremely offensive homophobic comments that could prove hard to read. Stop reading now if you feel you may be adversely affected by reading this type of material.
Who they are, what they said and when they said it. A brief history of hate that skims over the tip of an enormous iceberg of homophobia that should have ultimately resulted in the sinking of the DUP ship. Unfortunately we have let the comments slide, like water off a ducks back.
This article was written in response to comments made by Amnesty International programme director, Patrick Corrigan who last week warned “Northern Ireland is a discriminatory backwater for gay and lesbian people.” The human rights organisation boss also said that “Those opposing equality for gay and lesbian couples are on the wrong side of history.” After reading this you will probably think his statement is a little of an understatement. The article also backs up gay rights activist Peter Tatchell’s article in today’s International Business Times calling for David Cameron to rule out a coalition with the DUP for their anti-human rights agenda.
Faces and traces of some of the DUP’s homophobic outbursts
Behind door number 1: Jim Wells
Jim Wells (born 27 April 1957) is a Northern Ireland politician from the Democratic Unionist Party and formerly Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Wells is one of six Assembly members for South Down. He was a councillor on Down District Council from 2001 to 2011. On 23 September 2014, Wells was appointed as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Northern Ireland Executive taking over from Edwin Poots.
Comments and actions:
- July 2011 – According to the Irish News, Mr Wells sent Pride organiser Simon Rea a text message which said: “Dear Mr Rea, I understand that you contacted my Kilkeel office regarding what is termed a ‘Belfast Pride’ debate…. “I find the behaviour of those who take part in this march repugnant. I do not wish to be associated in any way with this event…“My position on this will not change in the future and I would politely suggest that any further requests of this nature will be a total waste of your time. Jim Wells.”
- When he first came into office in 2014 the new Minister of Health was reported to be blocking gay news and LGBT related sites on Twitter. It was confirmed yesterday that Mr Wells is still involved in this activity.
- On 21 January 2015, Wells said he continues to support a ban on gay men donating blood despite the prohibition being lifted elsewhere in the UK and is continuing to pursue an on-going legal appeal that has cost his department £39,000 so far. A judge has already ruled the decision made by his predecessor Edwin Poots was affected by “religious bias“.
- On 23 April 2015, Wells stated, “You don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That the child is far more likely to be abused and neglected.” An investigation by the PSNI is currently underway regarding these comments and reports of a possible incident involving rude comments being made to a gay couple he encountered while canvassing. Furthermore he is continuing a campaign to prevent same sex couples from adopting. His position as health minister ends on 11th May following the controversy over these comments, Mr Wells says he has apologised but wishes to focus on the health of his wife.
Numero Deux – Edwin Poots
Edwin Poots MLA (born 27 April 1965) is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party and is a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Lagan Valley. Mr Poots was appointed as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in May 2011 and remained in that position until he was replaced by Jim Wells on 23 September 2014.
Comments and actions:
- Poots caused controversy by banning blood donations from gay people, saying “I think that people who engage in high-risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood.” In January 2015 a judge ruled the decision was irrational and “infected by apparent bias”. In February 2015 the Northern Irish Department of Health said it did not find any evidence to back up maintaining a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The legal costs incurred by a Stormont department in relation to a ban on the donation of blood from gay men was nearly £40,000. The cost was detailed following a question at Stormont from the Green Party’s Steven Agnew in January of this year. The health department said the policy on blood donation by “men who have had sex with men” totalled £39,100.
- In July 2013 it was revealed the health minister had used £40,000 of public money in order to fund a legal challenge to prevent same-sex couples from being allowed to adopt children. In November 2013 he said that while he does not regard being gay as an abomination, he believes the “natural order” for having a child is strictly between a man and a woman.
- In an article by BBC NI Journalist William Crawley in 2007 entitled “Are religious politicians “nutters”? Poots told the journalist about his religious beliefs. Mr Poots is a young earth creationist and rejects the theory of evolution. When asked by Crawley about how old the Earth was, Poots replied: “My view on the earth is that it’s a young earth. My view is 4,000 BC.” Young earth creationism is accepted by the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, of which Poots is a member, and other conservative evangelicals in Northern Ireland. He is close to the Caleb Foundation, a creationist lobby
Face Number 3: The Notorious Iris Robinson
Iris Robinson (née Collins; born 6 September 1949) is a former Northern Ireland Unionist politician. She is married to Peter Robinson, who is currently the First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly. She was elected as DUP Member of Parliament for Strangford at the 2001 general election, replacing the Ulster Unionist Party’s John Taylor. She was re-elected at the 2005 general election. In December 2009, Robinson announced that she would leave politics and withdraw from public life following prolonged periods of mental illness. In January 2010, it emerged that Robinson had an extramarital affair with a 19-year-old in 2008, and she and her husband were faced with allegations of financial impropriety related to the affair. It was announced on 9 January 2010 that her membership of the DUP had been terminated and that she would stand down from elected office. On 12 January 2010 she resigned from the Northern Ireland Assembly, and on 13 January 2010, she resigned from the House of Commons and Castlereagh (borough).
Comments and actions: Where to begin…
- In June 2008 when speaking about community concerns over sex offenders Mrs Robinson was recorded in Parliament as saying “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children. There must be sufficient confidence that the community has the best possible protection against such perverts and it is important that there be a mature public debate on the issues, but the security of our citizens must be our overriding priority.”
- Also in June 2008 during a debate on BBC Radio Ulster she was reported for hate speech for views she expressed on The Stephen Nolan Show.
Stephen Nolan: Do you think for example that homosexuality is disgusting?Iris Robinson: Absolutely
Stephen Nolan: Do you think that homosexuality should be loathed? Iris Robinson: Absolutely
Stephen Nolan: Do you think it is right for people to have a physical disgust towards homosexuality? Iris Robinson: Absolutely
Stephen Nolan: Does it make you nauseous? Iris Robinson: Yes
Stephen Nolan: Do you think that it is something that is shamefully wicked and vile? Iris Robinson: Yes, of course it is, it’s an abomination.
- During the same conversation on BBC Nolan she stated that it was her firm belief that being gay was “unnatural” and should visit her psychiatrist to be cured of homosexuality. “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… It is an offence to God, an offensive act and something that God abhors.”
- In July 2008 Iris attempted to defend her statements on The Nolan Show in another interview with the Belfast Telegraph: “Can you think of anything more vile than man and man or woman and woman and sexually abusing children? What I say I base on biblical pronouncements, based on God’s word. I am amazed that people are surprised when I quote from scriptures … I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable. I feel totally repulsed by both. …”
Behind Door number 4: Peter Robinson
Peter David Robinson (born 29 December 1948) is a British politician who has been the First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) since 2008. He has been actively involved in politics since 1970 when he became a founding member of the DUP along with Ian Paisley. In April 2009, both Iris and Peter Robinson came under fire after Commons MPs’ expenses accounts were leaked to the press. The couple were described as the “swish family Robinson” by the News of the World and Daily Mail after claims that they were receiving £571,939.41 a year in various salaries and expenses, with a further £150,000 in salaries being paid to four of the couple’s family members. In January 2010, following an affair scandal involving his wife Iris and raising allegations regarding their financial affairs, Robinson temporarily handed over his duties as First Minister to Arlene Foster under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 2006. Later a police investigation, recommended that Robinson should not be prosecuted for the allegations of corruption made by the BBC in relation to the affair scandal and Mr Robinson resumed his duties as First Minister.
Comments and actions:
- On 30 October 2008 in his first extensive interview as First Minister interview for Hearts and Minds for BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson publicly stated that homosexuality was against Christian theology. “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was the Almighty… “This is the Scriptures and it is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won’t allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views.”
- In June 2014 the First Minister defended a Christian preacher who has controversial views about Muslims and same-sex marriage.
- The First Minister felt the need to criticise the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland for taking a homophobic bakery to court in March 2015. Peter Robinson waded into the “gay cake row” claiming that the potential of the ECNI spending up to £40,000 defending the anti-gay discrimination experienced by Gareth Lee was money “better spent elsewhere”. All this despite his party spending up to £40,000 trying to prevent gay adoptions and another £40,000 to keep in place the gay blood ban.
- Peter Robinson has also presided over his party’s opposition to LGBT rights during his time as Northern Ireland’s First Minister. This includes the gay blood ban, blocking marriage equality in Stormont using a petition of concern 4 times, never confirming the parties acceptance of the decriminalisation of homosexuality and giving his backing to Peter Givan’s conscience clause proposals which would see discrimination against the LGBT+ community legalised under the guise of religious freedoms.
In at number 5 it’s: Maurice Mills
Maurice Mills, the Democratic Unionist Party councillor for Ballymena. Alderman Mills first became an elected member in 1972 and during his 43 years of service has served as Mayor three times (2007, 2008 and 2010) and Deputy Mayor on 10 occasions between 1979 and 2006. In December 2014 he was awarded an MBE by the Queen in the New Year honours list. Mr Mill’s comments spread on the internet like wildfire after receiving the award from the Queen. Hollywood actress Ellen Page famously expressed disgust over Mills’ inclusion in the New Year Honours list.
Comments and actions:
- In early 2006 Mills said that Katrina, which killed 1,300 people, was God’s revenge for an annual gay pride event called Southern Decadence. “The media failed to report that the hurricane occurred just two days prior to the annual homosexual event called the Southern Decadence festival which the previous year had attracted an estimated 125,000 people,” said Mills. “Surely this is a warning to nations where such wickedness is increasingly promoted and practised.” Maurice has never retracted the comments, and the DUP resisted calls to condemn them.
- He also claimed gay people were responsible for the AIDS epidemic in Africa. “This abominable and filthy practice of sodomy has resulted in the great continent of Africa being riddled with Aids,” he said.
- John O’Doherty is director of The Rainbow Project which works to improve the physical and emotional health of LGBT people in Northern Ireland. “I am disappointed Maurice Mills has been awarded an MBE despite his insistence that natural disasters and an epidemic impacting on the poorest and most vulnerable in the world were caused by God’s hatred of same sex relationships.”
In no particular order, in at number 6: Ian Paisley (Recently deceased, September 12, 2014)
Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Baron Bannside, PC (6 April 1926 – 12 September 2014) was a unionist politician and Protestant religious leader from Northern Ireland. He became a Protestant evangelical minister in 1946 and would remain one for the rest of his life. In 1951 he co-founded the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster and was its leader until 2008. Mr Paisley was born in Armagh, County Armagh and brought up in the town of Ballymena, County Antrim, where his father James Kyle Paisley was an Independent Baptist pastor who had previously served in the Ulster Volunteers under Edward Carson. Paisley married Eileen Cassells on 13 October 1956. They had five children, daughters Sharon, Rhonda and Cherith and twin sons, Kyle and Ian. Three of their children followed their father into politics or religion: Kyle is a Free Presbyterian minister; Ian is a DUP MP; and Rhonda, a retired DUP councillor. He had a brother, Harold, who is also an evangelical fundamentalist.
On 16 April 1970, in a by-election to the Northern Ireland Parliament, Paisley, standing on behalf of the Protestant Unionist Party, won the Bannside seat formerly held by Prime Minister Terence O’Neill. Another PUP candidate, William Beattie, won the South Antrim seat. In the 1970 UK general election, Paisley won the North Antrim seat. These elections were “further evidence of the break-up of the unionist block and the unease among a large section of Protestants about the reform measures introduced under Chichester-Clark”.On 30 September 1971, Paisley and Desmond Boal founded the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Comments and actions:
- Paisley preached against homosexuality, supported laws criminalising it, and picketed various gay rights events. He denounced it as “a crime against God and man and its practice is a terrible step to the total demoralisation of any country”. “Save Ulster from Sodomy” was a campaign launched by Paisley in 1977, in opposition to the Northern Ireland Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, established in 1974. Paisley’s campaign sought to prevent the extension to Northern Ireland of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which had decriminalised homosexual acts between males over 21 years of age in England and Wales. As part of the campaign, advertisements were placed in newspapers claiming that any change in the law “can only bring God’s curse down upon our people”. The group recruited 70,000 members to join the campaign mostly through outreach to church attendees.
- Paisley’s campaign failed when legislation was passed in 1982 as a result of the previous year’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights brought forward by Northern Ireland born Jeff Dudgeon. The high profile case, brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Dudgeon vs. the United Kingdom, forced the UK government eventually to impose the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Northern Ireland in 1982. It was a landmark ECHR case: the first to be decided in favour of LGBT rights.
- In October 1982 he spoke at Westminster about his beliefs on homosexuality: “homosexuality is not only a defiance of human law but a defiance of divine law… “This order, legalising homosexuality, attacks the very cement of society. It weakens not only the moral but the social fibre of society. Those of us who believe in the sanctity of the home and in the strength and moral power of the home must voice their opposition to the order.”
Keeping the ball rolling, number 7: Ian Paisley Jnr.
Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Jr, MP (born 12 December 1966) is the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Antrim, in office since 2010. Previously he was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for North Antrim from 1998 to 2010. Paisley, who is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), is the son of the DUP’s founder, Ian Paisley. In 1990, he married Fiona, and they have four children. He is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.
Comments and actions:
- In 2005, Paisley Jnr. Publicly denounced the marriage of ex-UUP advisor Stephen King to his partner Jean-Claude Madrange as “immoral, offensive and obnoxious”. A claim Ian has recently upheld and told those he offended to “get over it.”
- In an interview in 2007 he is quoted as saying “I am, unsurprisingly, a straight person. 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.” He added: “That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do.”
- On BBC Question Time in May 2013:
Responding to a question by David Dimbleby, Mr Paisley said: “I am repulsed by many things.The actions, and not specificly the individuals. I am repulsed by people who are not homosexual as well sometimes.” Asked why he didn’t support same-sex marriage, Mr Paisely said: “I believe that marriage is fundamentally about creating children, and who in turn to create society. “I’ll be accused of being homophobic, almost as bad as being a racist, and everything else that’s nasty in the world.” He added that “Christians are scared off about expressing this sort of view.”
Last but not least, in at number 8: Paul Givan
Paul Jonathan Givan (born 12 October 1981) is a unionist politician in Northern Ireland. He was co-opted in June 2010 to the Northern Ireland Assembly as a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member for Lagan Valley, replacing the previous MLA, Jeffrey Donaldson, MP. He was elected to the Assembly at the 2011 election.
Actions and comments:
- In February 2015, Givan proposed a Northern Ireland Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill to equality legislation, after controversy and legal action arose over a religious bakery, “Ashers Baking Company”, having denied the baking of a cake in support of same-sex marriage. This bill was an attempt to enable legal discrimination through the denial of services to any LGBT persons under the grounds of religious beliefs. This motion caused uproar on popular websites like Twitter, having led to an American petition against the bill, receiving 100,000 signatures in 48 hours.Stephen Fry promptly commented on this bill, claiming it to be “sick” and further pointing that “Once again the religious right twist(ing) truth to present themselves as victims”
What do you think of our list and these comments? Anything to add? Get in touch.