Police investigate MP's anti-gay remarks

Officers from the serious crime branch of the Northern Ireland police service are carrying out interviews as part of an investigation into DUP MP Iris Robinson's controversial remarks over homosexuality.

The First Minister's wife caused a storm when she told the House of Commons, during a debate on the assessment and management of sex offenders, that "there can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children".

Her comments were made just days after she told a radio programme that homosexuality was an abomination and that gay people could be "cured".

The Belfast Telegraph, a sister paper to The Independent, has learned that serious crime branch detectives have been carrying out active inquiries into the remarks following a number of complaints about incitement to hatred.

It is believed police are investigating if the remarks contravened Article 9 of the Public Order (NI) Order 1987 by using threatening, abusive or insulting words which have the likelihood to stir up hatred and arouse fear.

The Belfast Telegraph understands media organisations have been approached this week for assistance in the inquiry.

Legal sources last night said it would be normal practice for police to carry out inquiries following complaints from the public.

It is not known whether Mrs Robinson has yet been spoken to. A DUP spokesman said last night: "The DUP is committed to equality and fairness for everyone in Northern Ireland. Our record in government shows that we are working hard to bring the maximum benefits of devolution to all of Northern Ireland's people regardless of their background.

"Our elected representatives will fulfil all the legal requirements of office and will oppose discrimination against any section of the community but maintain the right of everyone to hold and express their views freely on moral issues according to their conscience."

Calls were made for Mrs Robinson's resignation from public office following her comments in the House of Commons earlier this year.

When asked to clarify the remarks she said that homosexuality was "comparable" to child abuse.

As the storm over her comments began to grow she made an apparent U-turn stating that the recording of the debate, which has been published on the Hansard website, did not accurately reflect her views.

In a statement issued through the DUP press office she added: "I clearly intended to say that child abuse was worse even than homosexuality and sodomy .... At no point have I set out to suggest homosexuality was worse than child sex abuse."

But a Hansard official said that after checking audio recordings, she was satisfied the comments were reported accurately.

Days earlier Mrs Robinson told a radio show that the act of homosexuality was an abomination and that gay people can be "cured".

Her husband, First Minister Peter Robinson, has stood by his wife.

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