Belfast Telegraph

How the controversy over firebrand McConnell's sermon unfolded

By Staff Reporter

May 17: Pastor McConnell delivers a sermon at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle calling Islam "heathen" and "Satanic" and branding the Islamic faith a "doctrine spawned in Hell".

May 20: The Belfast Telegraph reveals the controversial remarks.

May 21-27: Leading members of the DUP, including Health Minister Edwin Poots, lend their support to Pastor McConnell while Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness says "hate-mongering must be condemned in the strongest terms".

May 27: First Minister Peter Robinson backs the under fire preacher, saying that he would not trust Muslims who had been involved in terrorist activities or those devoted to Sharia law.

May 29: Alliance MLA Anna Lo gives an emotional interview at Stormont saying that she is considering leaving Northern Ireland because she has become disillusioned following a number of high profile race attacks.

May 31: Thousands of people attend an anti-racism rally at Belfast City Hall and in Londonderry.

June 2: Pastor McConnell visits the home of two Pakistani men targeted in a hate crime in north Belfast, saying he was "sorry" for what had happened and apologised for those responsible for the attacks.

June 3: At Stormont on Tuesday, Assembly Members condemn the recent racial attacks and express their opposition to racism, discrimination and intolerance.

The Assembly passes – without a formal vote – a motion calling for all parties to show leadership on the issue and urging the First and Deputy First Ministers to bring forward a racial equality strategy as a matter of urgency.

June 3: First Minister Peter Robinson issues a public apology over comments he made about Muslims after visiting the Islamic Centre in Belfast.

June 5: The assistant Pastor of Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, James McCreedy, resigns from his position stating that his decision was a "matter of conscience" in light of the recent controversy.

June 6: Pastor McConnell is questioned under caution at Newtownabbey police station for up to two hours after going there voluntarily, but is not arrested. A public apology is read out by his solicitor and the police investigation continues.

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