Police investigating whether DUP councillor comments qualify as ‘hate incident’

A picture of DUP councillor Colin Kennedy wearing a white and blue striped shirt, blue suit jacket and tie

Police are investigating whether the comments that a DUP councillor made about the LGBTQ+ community and Hamas would constitute as a “hate incident”.

Newtownards councillor Colin Kennedy sparked serious controversy with remarks he made during a five-minute-long speech at a meeting of Ards and North Down Borough Council on Wednesday (26 October).

In his speech, Colin Kennedy said: “Do not be surprised when those who enthusiastically endorse the LGTBQIA alphabet soup agenda in the West are the very same people who are now seeking to defend Hamas, who are not averse to tossing gay people off the roofs of houses.

“What binds these causes is a deep-seated hatred of the West.”

Hamas is an Islamic militant movement and one of the Palestinian territories’ major political parties. It has led an armed resistance against Israel since Hamas took over governance of the more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza. 

Kennedy’s anti-LGBTQ+ comments prompted two councilmembers – independent councillor Ray McKimm and Hannah Irwin – to walk out of the meeting in protest.

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Before leaving, Irwin asked Kennedy to retract his remarks. 

“As a member of the LGBTQ community, I feel pretty personally offended by it,” she said.

Now, ITV News reports that Kennedy’s remarks have been reported to police.

Police officers confirmed that they “received a report of offensive comments” during the meeting  and are now investigating to determine whether Kennedy’s comments qualify as a “hate incident.”

The police investigation comes shortly after councillor Ray McKimm, who is gay, told BBC News NI that he planned to make a complaint against Kennedy over his “offensive” anti-LGBTQ+ comments to the local government watchdog and against the council for its handling of the matter.

This is not the first time the DUP councillor faced backlash for making anti-LGBTQ+ remarks.

In 2021, Kennedy baselessly claimed the campaign to ban conversion therapy as a “hoax” that was part of a push for a “neo-Marxist utopia”. 

He then alleged the concept of conversion therapy – harmful practices that try to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity – was “manufactured”, and the effort to implement a ban was an “anti-religion dog whistle”.