Iris’s ‘God’s law’ remark was a mistake says McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness last night called for religion to be kept out of politics, after demands by a prominent unionist for government to uphold God’s law on abortion.
Democratic Unionist MP Iris Robinson, wife of First Minister Peter Robinson, hit out at pro-choice campaigners who have demanded a relaxation of the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.
But Mr McGuinness — who shares Northern Ireland’s top government office with Mr Robinson — came out against the comments.
“I think it was a mistake,” Mr McGuinness said of the remarks.
“In the society that we live in now with many newcomers to our shores, and in many democracies throughout the world, we have a situation where many people within society believe in different things and believe in different gods. So what god are we talking about?
“Is it the Free Presbyterian god, is it the Church of Ireland god, is it the god that Catholics adhere to, is it the Mormon god, is it the Jehovah’s, the Islamic?”
He added: “We need to be very wise and recognise that we can hurt all sorts of people’s feelings.”
His comments followed the latest controversy sparked by DUP representative Iris Robinson, who recently attracted criticism for branding homosexuality an abomination.
At the time Mrs Robinson said she condemned those responsible for attacks on members of the gay community, but said that her views on homosexuality were drawn from The Bible.
Yesterday she hit out at pro-choice campaigners who have demanded a relaxation of abortion law in Northern Ireland.
Pregnancies can only be terminated where there is a major threat to the health of the woman and Mrs Robinson argued against any change to the law to bring it in line with the rest of the UK.
She said: “The Government has the responsibility to uphold God’s law morally... the Catholic Church as well as the Evangelicals and all the other churches across Northern Ireland all stand by what we say — that abortion is morally wrong.”
She added: “The Government are there to represent the morals of the scriptures.”
Her DUP colleague Edwin Poots — a former minister in the Northern Ireland government — defended Mrs Robinson’s right to argue religious standards should be reflected in the law.
He told the BBC the laws of many governments reflect scripture: “We in government have a role to ensure that Northern Ireland is a better place.”
Pro-choice groups claimed the Northern Ireland government was becoming a theocracy. But there was widespread criticism from other parties of Mrs Robinson’s latest comments. Politicians said the Assembly had to ensure government legislated for Christian and non-Christian alike.
The nationalist SDLP said the affair damaged the Northern Ireland government and in particular the Office of First and Deputy First Minister, coming at a time when the DUP and Sinn Fein are divided over a series of issues.