1.2.05

Guardian

DUP hits at Trimble adviser's gay marriage
Ian Paisley Jnr accused of stoking homophobia


Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Tuesday February 1, 2005
The Guardian

Ian Paisley Jr was last night accused of stoking homophobia in Northern Ireland after saying a senior political adviser should not work for the Ulster Unionist party because he had married his gay partner.

Steven King, the adviser to the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, is reported to have married his French Canadian partner Jean Claude in a ceremony in Canada before returning to Belfast.

Mr Paisley, justice spokesman for the biggest unionist party, the Democratic Unionist party, told the BBC: "Most people in Northern Ireland find homosexual relationships offensive and indeed obnoxious and I say that from the position of research I have done."

He said his political post-bag was full of letters from people opposed to the civil partnership bill granting rights to same-sex couples.

"David Trimble's party actively opposed civil partnerships - it just seems a wee bit perverse that the person advising their leadership leaves the country and enjoins in one [civil partnership] in another country," he said. "People are right to comment about the nature of that relationship."

Asked if he worked with Peter Mandelson when he was Northern Ireland secretary, Mr Paisley said: "I didn't find it any less offensive, I must say. At least Peter Mandelson did not promote his relationship to this degree that he would go away and get married or create a civil partnership in it ... The catch-all is that I find this sort of relationship as both immoral, offensive and obnoxious.

"The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland feel the same and have expressed that they feel that way."

Mr Paisley denied he was encouraging homophobia. "I am not speaking from a position of hatred. I don't hate gay people.

"I am just stating my personal view that it is incongruous when you are opposed to gay marriage to have an adviser in a gay marriage. It would be like the DUP taking advice from an IRA man on constitutional matters."

Deeply conservative and religious Northern Ireland - where Ian Paisley senior once led the "Save Ulster from sodomy" campaign - is struggling with a growing problem of homophobic crime.

The number of violent homophobic attacks reported in Derry is rising. One young gay man recently spoke of fleeing the city because of abuse. Others have told of excrement smeared on their doors and gay teenagers have reported contemplating suicide because of bullying.

Last year a DUP councillor was found guilty of harassment and fined after making homophobic taunts against a council candidate while canvassing.

Mr King refused to comment or confirm his marriage last night.

The Ulster Unionist Chris McGimpsey accused Mr Paisley Jr of using any excuse to attack David Trimble.

"What he is saying is that when Steven King was living with his boyfriend it was all right, now that he has married he should be sacked," he said.

"Should no gay or lesbian have a job? ... I wonder if the DUP would like to purge the gays from their own ranks."

Eileen Bell, deputy leader of the Alliance party, said: "This personal attack clearly demonstrates both the lack of tolerance and the extent of homophobia in the DUP. It is a pity that the DUP feels it has to deny equality to people from the gay community at every opportunity, but not surprising."

David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist party, accused the DUP of "rank hypocrisy."

· The Independent Monitoring Commission, which assesses continuing paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, is to issue a preliminary report this week considering the £26.5m Belfast bank robbery which has been blamed on the IRA. Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister, said the report would be handed to the British and Irish governments early next week.

Last April, the government imposed financial sanctions on Sinn Fein after the IMC recommended that the party should be punished because of continuing paramilitary activity by the IRA. Sinn Fein is challenging the sanctions in the high court in Belfast.

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