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DUP gay grant row escalates

By David Gordon and Lesley-Anne Henry

The DUP gay grant aid controversy escalated today, as details emerged of a major funding package from Ian Paisley's new department for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned that the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is committed to allocating £180,000 over a 12-month period to promote equality for the gay community.

The Stormont department will be headed from next week by Mr Paisley, who once led a 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign in a bid to keep gay sex illegal in the province.

It was revealed this week that another DUP ministry, Culture, Arts and Leisure, is funding an increased grant for this year's Belfast Gay Pride Festival.

In a further sign today of unrest within the party's religious heartland, a fiercely-worded attack on gay funding has been issued by Free Presbyterian minister the Rev Ivan Foster.

Writing for his website, the controversial clergyman challenged fellow church member Edwin Poots to "resign as minister-elect and so refuse to be part of any betrayal of the gospel of Christ".

Mr Foster, a diehard opponent of the DUP-Sinn Fein power-sharing deal, said the use of public funds to "promote and celebrate" an " abomination before God" was "shameful".

He also stated: "Mr Poots cannot serve God and the world. He cannot please God and the iniquitous sodomite lobby or, indeed, his Sinn Fein/IRA partners.

"If he acquiesces to this demand, then he is throwing his lot in with the enemies of God and will be contravening the standards of God's Word for a Christian."

Mr Poots indicated this week that he would not be intervening on the Gay Pride funding.

He also pointed out that he will be obliged to comply with equality legislation as Minister.

On Mr Foster's latest attack, he said: "I haven't taken up the position so I haven't awarded anything. That decision has already been taken and it's not the minister who makes it anyway, but nonetheless I have no comment to make at this point."

Mr Foster's outspoken website article was posted last night, before news of the grant support from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

The £180,000 funding involves the department working with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups in the province.

A spokesman for OFMDFM said: "The funding is to enable the Coalition on Sexual Orientation to build the capacity and infrastructure of the sector to promote equality, improve community relations and the social inclusion of lesbian/gay/bisexual people."

Andi Clarke, Gay Pride organiser and publisher of Ulster's only gay magazine 'Icon', said no one should be surprised that LGBT groups receive funding.

"We have received £250,000 from departments which will be under DUP control from next Tuesday," he said.

He also invited Mr Foster to attend a talk to hear how the money will be spent.

Belfast Telegraph

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