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Paisley's job means funding gay groups

Authorising £180,000 in equality aid among new duties

By David Gordon

Ian Paisley's Stormont department will be distributing £180,000 over the next year to gay and bisexual groups, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.

The DUP leader, who once led a "Save Ulster from Sodomy" campaign, is to take the top post next week at the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) - the Department responsible for equality issues in Northern Ireland.

As part of its equality work, OFMDFM has earmarked grant-aid to support lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

This funding package was launched by Secretary of State Peter Hain last year and involves the department working closely with the Coalition on Sexual Orientation, which represents a number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups.

A spokesman for OFMDFM said it will be providing £180,000 during the current financial year, 2007-08.

Money provided under the initiative in 2006-07 totalled £50,000.

The departmental spokesman added: "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."

OFMDFM is also finalising a sexual orientation strategy and action plan, which is due to be published this summer.

The Stormont department will be headed from next Tuesday by First Minister the Rev Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr Paisley founded the "Save Ulster from Sodomy" campaign in the late 1970s in an unsuccessful bid to prevent the decriminalisation of gay sex acts in Northern Ireland.

He is also the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, which preaches that homosexuality is evil.

Incoming DUP Culture Minister Edwin Poots faced controversy this week over grant-aid to the annual Belfast Gay Pride festival.

Two Free Presbyterian Church ministers spoke out over this funding.

Mr Poots, who has strongly opposed recent gay rights legislation, signalled that he would not intervene on the matter and would not have a direct input on such grant issues.

He also stated that he will be required to comply with equality legislation, adding: "There is little point making decisions that will end up being overturned in a court of law."

Belfast Telegraph


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