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Gerard McCarthy: I feel embarrassed to be from Northern Ireland, says actor angered by DUP 'conscience clause' bill

By Rebecca Black

Actor Gerard McCarthy has said he feels embarrassed to be from Northern Ireland after the DUP lent its backing to a move to exempt those with strong religious beliefs from equality laws.

North Antrim MLA Paul Givan is set to launch a Private Member's Bill on Monday to introduce a "conscience clause" into aspects of equality law in a bid to accommodate those with strong religious beliefs.

It comes after Newtownabbey-based Ashers Baking Company was told it discriminated against a gay rights activist by declining to include a slogan that read 'support gay marriage' on a cake.

The company is now facing legal action after the Equality Commission took on the case on behalf of the customer.

Mr Givan's planned bill has also been reported across the world and prompted actor Mr McCarthy - who played bisexual Kris Fisher in the Hollyoaks soap opera - to say he felt embarrassed to be from Northern Ireland.

"For the first time in my life, I'm actually embarrassed to be from Northern Ireland," the actor wrote on Twitter.

He continued: "Last week I was reminded that 20,000 children contemplate suicide per year as a direct result of homophobic bullying", adding: "The fact that Northern Ireland's First Minister supports plans to legalise homophobic discrimination is truly terrifying!"

Mr McCarthy will shortly be appearing alongside EastEnders star Charlie Brooks in the new touring production of gay play Beautiful Thing, and said he feels "glad" the production isn't travelling to Northern Ireland.

Mr Givan is set to launch his bill in Stormont this morning. He said Christian views need to be protected.

"The need for a 'conscience clause' was first highlighted by Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, who said the UK is 'less respectful' towards people with religious views than other countries, despite its long Christian traditions," he said.

"She indicated that a conscience clause should be considered to protect those, such as Christians, who have deeply and genuinely held beliefs on certain issues.

"Locally the pursuit of Ashers Bakery by the Equality Commission has highlighted the debate about how religious belief is respected and freedom of conscience.

"I am of the firm belief that reasonable accommodation should be introduced to prevent people of faith being hindered in their work by repressive legal constraints."

The launch event will be chaired by MLA Arlene Foster and will be addressed by Peter Lynas from the Evangelical Alliance and Mr Robinson.

Background

The latest clash between the gay community and some Christians in Northern Ireland has come in the shape of a cartoon cake.

The Equality Commission is representing a man who has challenged local bakery Ashers after they refused to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage message on it.

Now the DUP wants Christian views protected in law.

Read more:

'Inquiry needed into Equality Commission' in the wake of a failed legal action against shop owner 

David Cameron in the mix over Bert and Ernie gay marriage cake row

Catholic Church ends relationship with The Family Care Society in Northern Ireland over legislation allowing unmarried and same-sex couples to adopt 

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