DUP in debate on gay pride event


EQUALITY CAMPAIGNERS in the North have welcomed the decision by the DUP to participate, for the first time, in a Gay Pride event.

The new mayor of Belfast, the DUP’s Gavin Robinson, accepted an invitation to sit on the panel of a public debate in Belfast on Tuesday night.

The annual debate, modelled around BBC’s Question Time, was part of a two-week festival culminating in this Saturday’s Gay Pride march in the city.

Although he stood by many of the DUP’s controversial policies, including opposition to gay marriage and a lifetime ban on gay people donating blood, Mr Robinson’s presence at the event has been welcomed as a sign of softening attitudes.

“It’s really positive,” said John O’Doherty, director of LGBT lobby group the Rainbow Project.

“This is the very first time the DUP has attended any sort of public gay event and that’s something to be celebrated.

“The only disappointing thing about the evening was that the DUP’s views remain the same, but that’s the next challenge. This is a good start.”

The surprise attendance of Mr Robinson (27), who was elected last month, meant that all six of the North’s main political parties were represented at the discussion, which was chaired by the BBC’s William Crawley.

One of the panellists, SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt, said the atmosphere was “lively but not tense”.

He said: “I’ve been attending this event for years, and every year it gets more positive. The atmosphere used to be fraught, now it is much more cordial.

“Ireland is changing fast, and I really think Gay Pride is slowly but surely changing attitudes in the North.”

The DUP has been criticised in the past for its views on homosexuality. In 2007, Ian Paisley jnr was quoted as saying he was “repulsed by gay and lesbianism”.

Two years later, Iris Robinson described homosexuality as an “abomination”.