Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

It's time our politicians set tone for tolerance

AS Richard Haass attempts to do a George Mitchell on parades, flags and historical issues, it is worth considering whether he might be prepared to chair a similar gathering to counter the level of homophobia here.

The recent guilty plea by three men of the violent killing of a man in a suspected homophobic attack in Lurgan should focus the minds of those in positions of influence who fuel anti-gay propaganda.

Some unionist politicians should be more circumspect in their choice of language when arguing the issues of homophobia.

For example, in 2007 as a junior minister in the Office of First and deputy First Minister, Ian Paisley Jnr, in an interview with Hot Press magazine, said he was "repulsed by homosexuals".

Then, in 2008, then-DUP councillor Iris Robinson said she viewed homosexuality as "an abomination" and urged homosexuals to seek psychiatric help.

Ms Robinson said she "knew a psychiatrist with a Christian background, who helps homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in."

The former leader of the UUP Tom Elliott, was next to nail his colours to the homophobic mast, by announcing that he would never attend a Gay Pride march.

These outrageous comments, which would be a cause of opprobrium in civilised society worldwide, are not only tolerated, but widely trumpeted by many seeking election to political power.

TOM COOPER

By email

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