There were calls for Iris Robinson to resign from public office last night after she was accused of waging a “crusade against the gay community”.
The Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed the latest controversy surrounding the wife of the First Minister after she stated to a parliamentary committee that homosexuality is “viler” than child sex abuse.
A Westminster watchdog last night said that a number of complaints have been made about DUP MP Iris Robinson following her controversial comments on homosexuality, but admitted that no action can be taken.
The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, the body that monitors MPs’ code of conduct, said that despite the complaints about the Strangford MP nothing can be done as “the commissioner’s remit does not cover an MP’s views or opinions”.
The same exemption extends to Stormont where the vice chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee Sinn Fein MLA Willie Clarke said it is “very frustrating that at every opportunity people can abuse the code of conduct and get around it by saying it is a personal view or a religious belief.”
Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph revealed that during a Grand Committee debate at Westminster in June on the management and assessment of sex offenders Mrs Robinson stated: “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”
When asked to clarify her comments last Friday she said homosexuality was “comparable” to child abuse.
“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”, she said. As the storm over her comments grew, the First Minister’s wife made an apparent U-turn stating that the recording of the debate, published on the Hansard website, did not accurately reflect her views.
In a statement issued through the DUP Press office she added: “I clearly intended to say that child abuse was worse even than homosexuality and sodomy .... At no point have I set out to suggest homosexuality was worse than child sex abuse.”
A Hansard official last night said however that after checking audio recordings, she was satisfied the comments were reported accurately.
Members of the gay community gathered outside Belfast City Hall yesterday afternoon to protest against Mrs Robinson's comments.
One protester, Steven Colhoun, a gay Christian, said Mrs Robinson’s remarks left him fearful for his safety.
He added that he cannot understand why Mrs Robinson felt compelled to bring homosexuality into a debate about sex offenders.
“As a young gay man of 21 and a victim of religious and social homophobia as a result of her comments I am now fearful for my personal safety and for that of those like me.
“I believe that Iris Robinson should publicly apologise and I call on her to resign immediately.”
SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell said that Mrs Robinson’s comments raise “serious questions about her fitness to sit in a position of responsibility”.
UUP MLA Basil McCrea said he believes Mrs Robinson has “gone too far” and that the DUP needs to make it clear if she is speaking for the party.
Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long MLA said Mrs Robinson’s remarks show a “complete lack of responsibility” and added that such remarks are both inflammatory and dangerous.
Mrs Robinson told the Belfast Telegraph that when she speaks out against homosexuality she is not “hate-mongering” but is talking out of love.
“I am trying to reach out to people. I try to reach out and love them. That is what Christ teaches us. Anything I say is out of love.”