Belfast Pride challenges Homophobia and Mrs. Robinson

Publish Date: 29/07/2008

Peter TatchellGay rights activist Peter Tatchell gave the Amnesty International Pride lecture at the launch of the city's Gay Pride Week. He told the audience that the DUP MP Iris Robinson should resign over her recent remarks about homosexuality.

Mr Tatchell said Mrs Robinson's comments that homosexuality was an abomination were "unacceptable". He added that she would have been forced from office if she made similar comments about other minorities.
Chair of Belfast Pride, Andy Thompson, said that amid the ongoing controversy surrounding Mrs. Robinson's comments comparing homosexuality to child abuse, Pride has an even greater significance this year.

He stated, "Many young people across Northern Ireland who are struggling with their sexual identities will have been distressed and confused by the hurtful things that have been said by Mrs. Robinson.

Pride is important to show those young people that there is a large, diverse, welcoming family out there and that regardless of the First Ministers wife's narrow minded comments, we are not warped, sick or a danger to society."

No Show from First Lady

DUP MP Iris Robinson is married to the province's First Minister. Mrs. Robinson has complained that her remarks have been misrepresented and was duly invited to debate, alongside gay activists, the police and members of various religious denominations. However Mrs. Robinson will be out of the country and will not be able to attend Belfast Pride.

Andy Thompson told the Belfast Telegraph "I think Iris Robinson should really be making an effort to attend. If she is genuine about being misrepresented in her remarks then this is a perfect opportunity for her to clarify that. This is the perfect opportunity for her to hear about the hurt and harm she is causing people."

Mrs. Robinson, the MP for Strangford, sparked outrage earlier this year when she offered to put gay men in touch with a psychiatrist who claims he can make them straight. More than 12,500 people have already signed a petition on the Downing St website asking the Prime Minister to reprimand Mrs. Robinson.

Belfast Pride runs for the entire week with talks, exhibitions, film screenings, and performances. The celebrations culminate on Saturday 2nd August, with the Pride Parade through Belfast City Centre, and a public concert in Custom House Square.

Visit the Belfast Pride website here.

Sign the petition here.

Iris RobinsonSo is it true Mrs. Robinson?

According to research by the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of intolerance towards homosexuals - just ahead of Greece. Nearly 32,000 people in 19 European countries as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US took part in the human beliefs and values survey carried out by Vani Borooah, professor of applied economics at the University of Ulster, and John Mangan, professor of economics at the University of Queensland.

They were asked: Would you like to have persons from this group as your neighbours? The five groups were people of another race, immigrants or foreign workers, Muslims, Jews and homosexuals.

Homophobia was by far the main source of bigotry in most western countries: over 80% of those who expressed intolerance in Northern Ireland and Canada and 75% of those in Austria, the US, Great Britain, Ireland and Italy would not want gay people as neighbours.

Along with Greece, Northern Ireland was the most homophobic country in the western world.

The full survey and results can be found here.