Author and political commentator Owen Jones has warned of the danger of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) holding sway over a future British government in the event of a hung parliament.
Appearing on BBC Radio 5Live's Pienaar's Politics programme on Sunday (May 3) alongside DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, the Guardian columnist accused the Northern Irish party of being "riddled with homophobic bigotry", saying that British people had an "absolute right" to scrutinise their policies given the influence they may well hold Thursday's general election.
“We’ve had lots of scrutiny of a Labour government backed up by the SNP, but we certainly haven’t had scrutiny though of the DUP," Jones said.
“The people of this country have an absolute right to scrutinise the policies of a party and the beliefs of a party which may well have huge amounts of influence over the next government. Iris Robinson, the wife of the party leader, said that homosexuality is ‘disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile.’"
Jones added that "their Health Minister Jim wells had to a resign a few days ago after saying that children brought up by same-sex parents are more likely to be abused or neglected," before Dodds accused him of trying to “distract from the real issues."
After highlighting the fact that the DUP have tabled a bill which would permit discrimination against LGBT people by exempting those with religious beliefs - the so-called 'conscience clause' - Jones continued: "Your party is riddled with homophobic bigotry and the people of this country have every right to understand that, because you will hold a huge amount of influence, potentially."
Dodds responded by accusing Owen Jones of "going on a rant", before adding that the party was “against discrimination based on religion… or sexual orientation."
He continued: “As far as the redefinition of marriage is concerned, 150 Tory MPs also voted against same-sex marriage", adding that that the DUP does not attempt to influence “devolved matters” such as same-sex marriage.
"Owen Jones needs to realise that we take a progressive, modern approach to the House of Commons", he said, before concluding: "His attempts to smear the DUP will not succeed."
The DUP, who also opposed last month's (failed) attempt to introduce equal marriage in Northern Ireland, have said they would be willing to work with "any" potential UK government following the results of this week's election.
Back in March, party leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson told the Andrew Marr programme on BBC1: “After the election we will sit down with any potential Government of the United Kingdom.
“We have worked very closely with both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party over the past number of years and we have been able to cooperate with them for the benefit of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole.
“So we are one of those parties that has not determined that we will only speak to one party.
“We are open to speak to whichever party, in the first instance constitutionally the party that has won the most seats but we will not be averse to speaking to the party in second place.”
Only last week (May 1), Mr Robsinson himself came under fire after saying he would expect people to obey the law if homosexuality was made illegal, though he stated "that's not our policy".
Speaking to Attitude ahead of the election, Prime Minister David Cameron refused to rule out working with the party, but said: "I wouldn't trade my views on equality with anyone".