Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Peter Robinson in £80,000 handout to gay groups

First Minister to authorise grants despite wife’s outspoken comments

Peter Robinson's department helped fund this year's Gay Pride parade in Belfast
Peter Robinson's department helped fund this year's Gay Pride parade in Belfast

The government department headed by Peter Robinson is due to provide £80,000 to gay groups within the next seven months — despite his wife's controversial views on homosexuality.

Officials have also confirmed that Stormont grant-aid totalling £100,000 was allocated to the gay sector during Ian Paisley's period as First Minister.

It has further been revealed that money from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) helped fund this year's Gay Pride parade in Belfast.

The ongoing OFMDFM allocations are part of a £230,000 package put in place under direct rule by then Secretary of State Peter Hain.

This scheme has continued under devolution, alongside rows over anti-gay comments by prominent DUP politicians — including MLA Iris Robinson, the First Minister's wife.

Mrs Robinson was widely condemned after branding homosexuality an “abomination” in June this year.

Fellow DUP MLA Ian Paisley Jnr caused a similar controversy last year by saying he was “pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism”.

An official breakdown of Stormont allocations to the gay sector under devolution has been provided in an OFMDFM Freedom of Information disclosure, seen by the Belfast Telegraph.

The £230,000 package is administered by the Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSO), an umbrella organisation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups across the province.

The OFMDFM Freedom of Information response said £150,000 of the £230,000 total had been provided to date by the Department. Of this sum, £50,000 was paid in March 2007, two months before devolution was restored.

The Department stated there were two further £50,000 allocations for the gay groups — in July 2007 and February 2008.

Dr Paisley was First Minister at these times. He led a “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign in the 1970s, in a failed attempt to prevent the legalisation of gay sex in Northern Ireland.

The OFMDFM Freedom of Information response also stated that the remaining £80,000 from the £230,000 package will be provided by the Department before the end of March next year.

The Assembly was told earlier this month that £10,000 from the package was spent on the Gay Pride parades of the last two years.

Participants in this year's event, on August 2, mocked the First Minister's wife. Some wore Iris Robinson masks, while an “Iris float” featuring a papier mache image of her, joined the parade.

In a reply to a written Assembly question, Mr Robinson and Martin McGuinness stated: “The Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSO) contributed to the 2007 and 2008 Belfast Gay Pride Parade, awarding £5,750 and £5,000, from a fund of £230,000 which was awarded by the previous Direct Rule administration.”

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