Gay activist Peter Tatchell has challenged Iris Robinson to a debate about her controversial views on homsexuality.
Mr Tatchell will take part in a panel discussion as part of the Belfast festival tonight about sexuality, but the wife of the First Minister will not be in attendance.
Extracts from the DUP MP’s controversial Radio Ulster interview last year, in which she said she knew a psychiatrist who had been able to “turn around” homosexuals, will be broadcast during the performance.
But Mrs Robinson will not be attending. A representative at her constituency office in Strangford said: “Iris is busy all week and is so occupied that we wish we could add another two days to the week for her.”
But Mr Tatchell, who has campaigned for human rights for around 40 years, said he would welcome an opportunity to debate with the politician.
He said: “Mrs Robinson doesn’t seem to understand gay people. She is not willing to meet us or listen to our concerns.
“I know a senior psychiatrist in London who argues that the real illness is not homosexuality but homophobia. They say homophobia represents a maladjusted form of heterosexuality.”
He said he hoped the performance of To Be Straight With You “will shine a spotlight on homophobia and the way in which much of it goes hand in hand with religious fundamentalism”.
The other members of the panel are community activist Claire Hackett, Lloyd Newson, director of DV8 Physical Theatre and Dr Mamoun Mobayed, psychiatrist and president of Muslim Family Association in Northern Ireland.
The show takes place at the Grand Opera House from October 21 to 23.
The panel discussion will be held after the show at around 9.30pm tonight.
In her own words...
Iris Robinson to Parliament
“We all agree that few issues arouse as much interest or concern in the community as that of sex offenders. The sentences served and their subsequent placement back in the community cause considerable disquiet among the public. 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.”
Iris Robinson to 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. ... I am trying to reach out to people. That is what Christ teaches us ... Anything I say is out of love. I am not hate-mongering. I cannot leave my Christian values hanging at the door when I go into politics. I am speaking out more now because we are getting it more and more rammed down our throats that the minority views are more important than the majority views. I am not trying to alienate anyone ... I do not turn anyone away. I would never water down anything with the scriptures and I don’t think I should. I find it amazing, if not unexpected, as these days Christians are persecuted for their views but that will not stop me. There will be a judgement day and when I am judged I want to know that I did all I could to spread the word of God.”