DUP official faces conduct complaint after suggesting PinkNews supports paedophilia

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A senior DUP official is facing a complaint after allegedly suggesting that PinkNews supports paedophilia.

Last week fringe Northern Irish politician Jim Allister, a staunch opponent of LGBT equality,  launched a high-profile attack on PinkNews over a weeks-old report which questioned why Twitter users were calling Prince George a ‘gay icon’.

Mr Allister branded the article “outrageous and sick”, suggesting that homosexuality is “a life defined by sex.”

Northern Ireland’s former Health Minister Edwin Poots, a Democratic Unionist Party MLA, joined in the attack.

Mr Poots tweeted: “Totally supporting Jim on this one, making children an icon of sexuality today, pedophilia tomorrow. Absolutely disgusting.”

The comment has now been challenged this week by a Green MLA, who alleges that Mr Poots was trying to equate homosexuality and paedophilia.

DUP official faces conduct complaint after suggesting PinkNews supports paedophilia

MLA Clare Bailey said: “To associate the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual Queer/Questioning) community with paedophilia is grossly offensive and in my mind is a clear breach of the Assembly Code of Conduct.”

Though the Assembly is not currently sitting due to a collapse of power-sharing, Ms Bailey said: “Political paralysis should not mean that MLAs can spew out hateful comments without challenge.”

A petiton challenging Mr Poots’ comments has also attracted thousands of signatures.

It says: “[The tweet] was a reference to an article in the Belfast Newsletter, in which fellow MLA Jim Allister had referred to gay men as living ‘a life defined by sex’.

“Mr Poots’s tweet, with its grossly offensive linking of the LGBTQ community with ‘pedophilia’ [sic] is contrary to the Northern Ireland Assembly Code of Conduct.

“We call upon the Commissioner for Standards to carry out a full investigation of these comments by Mr Poots. The people of Northern Ireland have shown, most recently by the record-breaking attendance at Belfast Pride, that they support their LGBTQ friends, neighbours, colleagues and family members.

“Together, we have moved beyond the prejudice, homophobia, transphobia and intolerance of the past into an inclusive and respectful present. We stand together to affirm and protect that reality. ”

The Assembly Code of Conduct says: “Members should promote equality of opportunity and not discriminate against any person, treating people with respect regardless of race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, political opinion, marital status and whether or not a person has dependents.”

Douglas Bain, the Assembly Commissioner for Standards, told the Belfast News Letter: “All admissible complaints I receive are investigated thoroughly.”

Mr Poots has refused to back down, however.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “The individuals who made a child a sexual icon did that, and that was what I was pointing out.”

While serving as the country’s Health Minister, Mr Poots had refused to lift the country’s permanent ban on gay men donating blood.

Mr Allister’s original smear was an apparent retaliation to PinkNews coverage of his anti-LGBT stances.

PinkNews reported earlier this year that Mr Allister had allegedly offered a pact with the Democratic Unionist Party to help block equal marriage – overriding a majority of support for the measure in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The politician, who opposed the decriminalisation of gay sex in the 1980s, had signalled that he would help the DUP employ a ‘petition of concern’ to hinder LGBT rights, explaining: “TUV is a party committed to traditional family values and will continue to resist attempts by the homosexual lobby to introduce the oxymoron which is same sex marriage to Northern Ireland.”

The TUV lawmaker opposed the decriminalisation of gay sex in the 1980s, and still refuses to say whether he still believed gay sex should be a crime.

Speaking in 2015 when asked if gay sex should be legal he refused to answer the question, adding: “In the 1980s I opposed the legislative change that was made [to legalise gay sex]… gay sex to me is an obnoxious thing.”

Last year, Mr Allister was the only MLA in Northern Ireland to vote against the extension of pardons to men with historical gay sex convictions.

He said: “The House in 2016, in its arrogance, thinks that it can take it upon itself to rewrite the law of 40 years ago.

“It cannot, and it should not. The law was the law. If those who chose to break the law, knowing what the law was, paid a penalty, that was the law taking its course, whether they were homosexual or heterosexual.

“It is now so fashionable to jump on board the LGBT bandwagon that you simply abandon all principles and leave your beliefs outside the door.”