DUP rejects blame for homophobic attacks

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The DUP has rejected claims from a gay rights group which said the party has helped create a context for a homophobic attack in north Belfast.

Paul Finlay-Dickson, whose civil partner Maurice died of cancer last month, said gangs of youths regularly make threats, bang on his windows and doors and throw eggs at his house.

Church of Ireland lobby group Changing Attitudes Ireland said yesterday that the attacks “took place in a context of homophobia” which they linked to DUP and church policies.

However, the DUP responded that “any attack on a person or their property should be condemned and the perpetrators prosecuted for their hate crime”.

Mr Finlay-Dickson said a rainbow flag, representing the gay rights movement, was ripped down from outside their home and covered in faeces.

Police have said they are investigating complaints ranging from threats to kill to harassment and criminal damage.

“They’re not kids, they are young men and they are targeting someone who is grieving for someone who died of terminal cancer,” he told Radio Ulster’s Talkback.

Dr Richard O’Leary, the chair of Changing Attitude Ireland, said the attacks took place in a context of homophobia. He added: “The DUP has for decades led verbal and legal assaults on gay people. From its Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign, to its opposition to civil partnership, to its current proposed conscience clause.”

He noted that Christian leaders in Northern Ireland have described same sex relationships as “sinful”, “evil”, “abomination”, “intrinsically disordered” and “not normative”.

“These teachings are not consistent with the loving and inclusive teaching of Jesus, and they are not conducive to creating a society where homophobic attacks no longer occur,” he added.

A DUP spokesman responded that the Ashers Bakery case has highlighted “the competing rights there are in society”.

He added: “It is very dangerous for society to go down a path where people of faith cannot be accommodated. We only seek a reasonable accommodation for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

The DUP would be “delighted” to hear from Changing Attitude Ireland on a “reasonable accommodation” as part of the ongoing consultation on the proposed bill, he added.