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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Iris Robinson the subject of police investigation over homosexuality remarks

(by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

Police are investigating whether Iris Robinson, the DUP MP, committed an offence last week when she described homosexuality as physically disgusting and recommended psychiatric treatment to "cure" it.

Robinson is the chairwoman of the Stormont assembly's Health, social services and public safety committee. As Northern Ireland's first minister, her husband, Peter Robinson is responsible for delivering gender equality.

In a BBC interview on Friday Irish Robinson described homosexuality as an abomination. She condemned assaults on homosexuals and said she loved them as people, but was nauseated by their actions.

The BBC's Stephen Nolan of the BBC asked Robinson a series of questions to establish her precise views. "Do you think it is right for people to have a physical disgust towards homosexuality?" Nolan asked. "Absolutely" she replied. "Do you think that it is something that is shamefully wicked and vile?" Nolan then asked. "Yes, of course it is, it's an abomination." Robinson also agreed that homosexuality "should be loathed".

Police have recieved a complaint from Andrew Muir, a gay rights activist and member of the Alliance Party. "It is unacceptable to say this sort of thing in the wake of serious homophobic attacks" Muir said. "Gay people in parts of her constituency are afraid to go out at night for fear of assault" Muir said.

Muir made his complaint under the Public Order Act 1987 that prohibits comments likely to incite hatred or arouse fear.

"I was assured this would be passed on to police in south Belfast and an investigating officer would be appointed" Muir said. The PSNI confirmed that complaint had been received in Bangor station. "We are now investigating whether an offence has been committed."

Robinson refers homosexuals to Paul Miller, a consultant psychiatrist who acts as her health adviser. Miller, who works with Alzheimer sufferers in the Mater Hospital, attempts to "cure" homosexuals in his own time. However Miller described Robinson's use of the word abomination as "inflammatory".

The Royal College of Psychiatrists distanced themselves from Miller's treatement. Mainstream medical opinion regards attempts to eradicate homosexual desires or to change someone's sexual orientation as potentially harmful.

June 10, 2008
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This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on June 8, 2008.

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