Police to investigate Iris Robinson over homophobic comments

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland will investigate whether the wife of the province’s First Minister is guilty of a hate crime after she called homosexuality disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile.

Andrew Muir, the vice chair of Gay and Lesbian across Down, visited Bangor Police Station yesterday evening to report Mrs Iris Robinson MP for stirring up hatred and arousing fear as a result of her comments earlier that day on BBC Radio Ulster.

His hate crime report has been passed to South Belfast police for investigation.

Mrs Robinson is married to Peter Robinson, who took office as the First Minister of Northern Ireland on Thursday.

She is MP for Strangford and the chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s health committee.

Speaking on The Nolan Show, she was asked to comment on a homophobic assualt that took place in Newtownabbey.

Stephen Scott, 27, was attacked by a gang of youths on Wednesday and suffered head and leg injuries. The police are calling the incident homophobic in nature.

Mrs Robinson suggested that he should consider therapy to “cure” him of his homosexuality.

She condemned the attack on Mr Scott but added:

“I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.

“And I have met people who have turned around to become heterosexual.”

Mrs Robinson turned down an invitation from gay rights group Rainbow Project to meet with gay and lesbian people and hear about their experiences and concerns.

“I do not need to put my hand into the fire to know I will get burned,” she commented.

“Homosexuality is not natural. My Christian beliefs tell me that it is an abomination and that is very clear.

“It is an offence to God, an offensive act and something that God abhors.

“My Christian beliefs tell me to love the sinner but hate the sin, so I condemn the people who went out and kicked that gay man.

“I am clearly not saying that I want people to thrash the living daylights out of a homosexual man or women, because I don’t.”

There have been calls for her husband, who as First Minister has departmental responsibility for gay rights, to publicly distance himself from his wife’s comments.

The psychiatrist in question, Dr Paul Miller, has claimed he can turn gay people straight.

A born again Christian, health adviser to Mrs Robinson and consultant psychiatrist, he gave an interview to the Belfast News Letter.

“First, no one is born gay because gay identity is a complex interaction between genetics and environment,” he told the paper.

“Second, no one chooses to experience who they are sexually attracted to; and thirdly, change in sexual orientation is possible.

“As a therapist, I have to say that it’s like anything – there are some people who engage in therapy and they just find the change process too difficult.”

Dr Miller told the paper that a study by American psychiatrists Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse provides proof that conversion is possible.

His superiors disagree.

Professor Michael King of the Royal Society of Psychiatrists said:

“There is a lot of evidence going back 50 years to suggest that attempts to change people’s sexuality in either direction are not possible.

“Such treatments do not work and can actually cause quite a lot of harm. Homosexuality is a state and a sexual orientation and is not a question of behaviour.”

The portion of Mrs Robinson’s radio interview that was reported to the police as a hate crime was the following:

Stephen Nolan: Do you think for example that homosexuality is disgusting?

Iris Robinson: Absolutely

Stephen Nolan: Do you think that homosexuality should be loathed?

Iris Robinson: Absolutely

Stephen Nolan: Do you think it is right for people to have a physical disgust towards homosexuality?

Iris Robinson: Absolutely

Stephen Nolan: Does it make you nauseous?

Iris Robinson: Yes

Stephen Nolan: Do you think that it is something that is shamefully wicked and vile?

Iris Robinson: Yes, of course it is, it’s an abomination.