Socialists question First Minister about gay rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The national convenor of the Scottish Socialist party has written to the First Minister of Scotland seeking an assurance that any future meetings with members of the Northern Ireland Assembly would raise the issue of attitudes towards lesbian and gay rights by its ministers.

Two DUP members of the Northern Ireland Executive, which operates as a coalition government with Republican party Sinn Fein, have been accused of homophobia.

Edwin Poots, minister for sport, attacked the formation of a gay rugby team in the province.

He said he: “cannot fathom why people see the necessity to develop an apartheid in sport.”

In May 2007 Ian Paisley Jnr caused outrage with comments he made in a magazine interview that gay people “repulse” him and harm society.

He resigned earlier this month after being implicated in a corruption scandal.

Scottish Socialist Party national convenor Colin Fox’s wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond after he met the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Dr Ian Paisley, his Deputy Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley Jnr.

In his letter Mr Fox, former Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Lothians, said:

“Gay sports teams are formed, as I’m sure you fully appreciate, not to self exclude the community from the rest of society, but to create a safe space where LGBT people can play sport.

“The necessity of these safe spaces is surely appreciated even more now when you consider the unacceptable attitude expressed by both these members of the Northern Ireland government towards the LGBT community.

“Can you reassure me that you took the opportunity to raise the serious issue of homophobia in Northern Ireland when you met with Dr Paisley and the Irish delegation?”

Mr Poots’ comments were criticised by the executive director of the cross-community Alliance Party.

“The DUP is a wounded animal at the moment and Poots is thrashing around pandering to their old prejudices,” Gerry Lynch, who is gay, told PA.

“How nasty and spiteful to scapegoat a small minority to make up for their own failings in government.

“All we get from the DUP is negativity in the press and failure to deliver in Stormont. People are getting sick of their behaviour.”

The Scottish government is backing new hate crimes legislation being considered by the country’s parliament.

The Sentencing of Offences Aggravated by Prejudice (Scotland) Bill, proposed by Patrick Harvie, a Scottish Green MSP, would bring Scotland into line with England and Wales, where courts have been able to impose tougher sentences for offences committed due to the victims disability or sexual orientation since April 2003.

The Northern Irish and Scottish governments meet regularly at the British-Irish Council.

Along with representatives of the Welsh government, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, they meet regularly to “promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands.”

The heads of government hold two summits a year.