The Government department headed by First Minister Peter Robinson handed out £75,000 to gay groups during his first year in the top Stormont job, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.
Mr Robinson’s appointment as First Minister in June 2008 was followed within hours by the eruption of a fierce controversy over anti-gay comments by his politician wife Iris. The DUP leader publicly endorsed her denunciation of homosexuality as an “abomination”.
The gay funding allocations were part of a £230,000 grant-aid package established in 2006 under direct rule by then Secretary of State Peter Hain.
It has been financed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and administered by the Coalition on Sexual Orientation, an umbrella organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual groups in Northern Ireland.
Payouts have continued with Mr Robinson as joint head of OFMDFM.
Funding was also released when the First Minister’s post was held by Ian Paisley.
Mr Paisley ran a Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign in the 1970s in an unsuccessful bid to prevent the liberalisation of the law on gay sex.
It is understood that the £230,000 funding scheme could only have been scrapped by DUP First Ministers with the approval of Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
The allocations made in Mr Robinson’s first year at OFMDFM have been detailed in a Freedom of Information disclosure to this newspaper.
The Stormont department stated: “On November 6, 2008, £50,000 was paid to the Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSO), with a further payment of £25,000 on April 22, 2009.
“A final payment of not more than £5,000 will be made to CoSO later this year, thereby completing the scheme approved by former Secretary of State Peter Hain.”
It also said: “The basic aims of the funding, as agreed by Peter Hain, Secretary of State at the time the funding was awarded, were to support capacity building and community relations and to tackle social exclusion.
“The fund has been administered by CoSO and is managed by a steering group representing the sector and facilitated by an official from this department.”
A total of £100,000 was released by OFMDFM during Mr Paisley’s time as First Minister.
Mr Robinson backed his wife’s comments on homosexuality in a TV interview last October. He said: “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was the Almighty.”
The controversy about Mrs Robinson’s remarks led to her being mocked by participants in last year’s Belfast Gay Pride parade.
That parade received £5,000 from CoSO from the £230,000 OFMDFM-funded package. A cross-party Assembly committee recently decided that Mrs Robinson’s comments about gays did not breach the Code of Conduct for MLAs.