The First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the DUP has said he would expect people to obey the law if homosexuality was made illegal.
Speaking to The View on BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson was challenged about a string of incidents – recent and historic – in which members of his party have made homophobic comments. Most notably, the Health Minister Jim Wells was forced to resign last week after implying gay parents were more likely to abuse their children.
Mr Robinson was asked about Magherafelt councillor Paul McLean, who told the Irish News last week that he thinks homosexuality should not be legal. “Absolutely. He’s entitled to that opinion," Robinson replied, before adding, “but that isn’t our policy.”
When host Mark Carutthers suggested McLean would have gay people thrown into prison, Mr Robinson said, “I don’t think he’s wanting to throw anyone into prison. I would hope that if it was illegal, people would obey the law.” When asked to confirm that he meant homosexuals should stop practising if such a law was passed, he said, “I do, I do believe that people should obey the law.”
The DUP attempted to prevent the legalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland in 1982, with a campaign titled ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’, and though they failed, they have never officially changed their policy on how they view the issue. They also opposed the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005, but were over rules, and last week they blocked the introduction of same sex marriage for the fourth time. They currently hold 8 seats in Westminster and hope to gain a 9th in next week’s general election.
This is not the first time Peter Robinson has been embroiled in a row over homophobic comments. His wife Iris, a former MP, infamously said that “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing children.” She is also a firm believer in gay conversion therapy. Her career ended in 2009 when it was revealed she had had an affair with a 19-year-old man.