Belfast Telegraph

Viewpoint: So what is DUP stance on gay rights?

Ian Paisley Junior's remarks about homosexuality, quoted in a Dublin magazine, demonstrate how dangerous it is for a minister to comment publicly on matters of morality.

He has a perfect right to his opinions about gays, and to be "pretty repulsed" by them and what they do, but as a junior minister he must separate his personal feelings from his duties - or he should consider his position.

While it is disturbing to hear any politician speaking disparagingly about the sexual orientation of an estimated 5% of society, Mr Paisley is in a unique position, as assistant to his father in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The office has a responsibility for promoting and monitoring equality of opportunity, but how committed to defending homosexuals can he be, if he is repulsed by their lifestyle and thinks it is wrong? For them, it is the way they were born and is increasingly accepted in most countries.

He went on to say, echoing what the Rev Ian Paisley has said about Roman Catholics, that he does not hate homosexuals, but hates homosexual practice. But in saying that he thinks they harm themselves and, without caring, harm society, he is making a judgment about a large group of people and implying that they are dangerous. If that is not what he meant, and it is on a par with a racist comment, he should make his opinion clear.

Northern Ireland has always been divided on what society's attitude to homosexuality should be. Some, from religious motives, think homosexual practice should never have been legalised and resent " marriage" ceremonies and gay pride marches. Others defend equal rights for gays and minorities of all kinds.

As an influential junior minister, Mr Paisley has left himself open to doubt about his impartiality when dealing with issues of homophobia. Gays, like migrants, are frequently the target of physical and psychological attacks, which should be condemned by everyone, without exception.

The fact that the First Minister, Ian Paisley, led a campaign to "save Ulster from sodomy", which failed to prevent British and European law on homosexuality being introduced, suggests that the DUP and its supporters may still be reluctant upholders of gay rights. The party and its leader have a duty, in 2007, to say where they stand now, or the views of Ian Paisley, jr, may be seen as representative.

It would be a great pity if the credibility of the devolved government were to suffer, in any way, from a split over attitudes to homosexuality. A debate on the issue could be healthy, if lessons were to be learned, but otherwise the voters simply want the executive members to get on with their real jobs, keeping their personal opinions to themselves.

A turkish nightmare

A great deal of sympathy should go out today to those caught in the Turkish holiday villas controversy.

The story emerging from Altinkum is one that has all the makings of considerable financial - and emotional - turmoil for those involved.

People who have invested savings into dreams of Mediterranean bliss are in danger of losing tens of thousands of pounds. In worst case scenarios, some investors will endure years of mortgage repayments for properties they do not own.

But who's to blame and what lessons can be learned?

Kevin O'Kane, the Northern Ireland entrepreneur caught in the affair, says he is as much a victim of a fraudster as those who bought apparently bogus villas.

Mr O'Kane says he is totally innocent and that he is fighting the corner for his customers. Mr O'Kane will need to convince the Turkish police of his side of the story. They have seized his passport until they can get to the bottom of the affair.

As to lessons learned, the public must understand that investing abroad, particularly outside the EU, carries greater risk than closer to home. Legal issues and currency fluctuations immediately spring to mind.

The Altinkum story is not over yet, and investors will be hoping today that it can still have a happy ending.

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