Northern Ireland gay fund in place before DUP took office

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Funding arrangements put in place while Northern Ireland was still under direct rule from Westminster have ensured that LGBT groups in the province are getting state funds.

Despite the presence of the DUP in the devolved government, £150,000 has already been paid from a £230,000 package put in place by former Secretary of State Peter Hain.

The funds, which come under the jurisdiction of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), are paid to the Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSO).

Details of the funding package came to light after the Belfast Telegraph made a freedom of information request.

The Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSO) was established by LGBT groups in Northern Ireland and acts as an umbrella body.

Founder organisations include Belfast Lesbian Line, Belfast Pride, Foyle LGB Line, the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association and the Rainbow Project.

Of the £230,000 allocated in 2007, £50,000 was paid before the province’s coalition government took office in May last year.

Two further payments of £50,000 were made in July 2007 and February 2008.

The remaining £80,000 will be paid by the OFMDFM by March 2009.

CoSO gave more than £5,000 to this year’s Belfast Pride parade, where the wife of First Minister Peter Robinson was a focus for protest.

Iris Robinson, who is a DUP MP and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, has been criticised for speaking out against gay people.

During a BBC Radio Ulster interview in June the MP for Strangford offered to introduce gay men to a “Christian psychiatrist” who could make them heterosexual.

She has refused to modify her position that homosexuality is vile, wicked and an abomination, based on her Biblical beliefs.

During a June 17th House of Commons committee discussion on the assessment and management of sex offenders, Mrs Robinson said:

“There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

She claims that she meant that child abuse is worse than homosexuality.

At this year’s Belfast Pride Mrs Robinson ‘appeared’ on masks carried by Pride participants.

A float called the ‘Iris Mobile’ joined the procession along the Belfast streets with a giant papier-mâché image of the controversial politician.

The DUP is well-known for its opposition to gay equality.

In the 1970s its then-leader Ian Paisley spearheaded a campaign against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, “Save Ulster From Sodomy,” and as recently as 2005 he led opposition to civil partnerships.

Since taking office in a joint administration with nationalist party Sinn Fein in May 2007 the DUP has muted their stance on gay rights.

First Minister Peter Robinson, who succeeded Mr Paisley in June, has distanced himself from his wife’s remarks.

DUP colleagues have backed her, saying she is entitled to express her religious beliefs.

“The DUP is committed to equality and fairness for all of our people,” the party said in a statement last month.

“Our record shows that we are working to bring the maximum benefit of devolved government to everyone in Northern Ireland regardless of their background.”