DUP minister faces Gay Pride grant row
2nd May 2007
An incoming DUP minister was today facing a gay grant controversy over
spending within his new Government department.
Edwin Poots has been challenged by a Free Presbyterian minister on
the likelihood of money from the Department of Culture going to Gay
Pride celebrations in Northern Ireland.
Mr Poots has told the Belfast Telegraph that he does not envisage
intervening on the matter and will be obliged to comply with equality
The DUP MLA is a Free Presbyterian member himself and has been to the
fore in opposition to recent gay rights legislation in Northern Ireland.
As a leading Lisburn councillor, he supported a failed attempt to
prevent the wedding room in the city's civic centre being used for same
sex civil partnership ceremonies.
Mr Poots will next week take charge of the Department of Culture,
Arts and Leisure, which bankrolls the Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC),
a Government sponsorship and promotional body.
NIEC awarded £3,000 to Gay Pride celebrations in 2006 and is
currently considering a grant application for this year's festival.
Mr Poots said that his personal opinions were very clear. But he
added: " Sometimes your personal views diverge from what you can do.
There are procedures to go through and equality legislation and I will
be observing all of those procedures."
Mr Poots said it was NIEC's responsibility to allocate its money.
"There are laws in this country and they have to be observed, whether
we like them or not," he said.
"I don't think it would be wise for a minister to go in and not
observe those laws."
A very different approach to the issue of Gay Pride funding was taken
by outspoken Free Presbyterian Minister, the Rev Ivan Foster.
The clergyman, who is bitterly opposed to the Stormont deal on
restoring devolution, said: "If it turns out that financial support for
a celebration of sodomy is sanctioned by a member or office bearer of
the Free Presbyterian Church, then it will underscore the utter futility
of the power sharing agreement that has been put together by the DUP and
"Far from the DUP elevating the morals of society, it seems that the
DUP is going to come down to the level of morality that society
A DCAL spokesperson today said: "NIEC paid grant of £3,000 to Gay
Pride under the Community Festivals Fund last year. There is an
application in for this year also and this is being considered. All
applications are treated equally."
The annual Gay Pride parade in Belfast has been picketed by Christian
objectors in recent years. The protesters have also attempted, without
success, to persuade the Parades Commission to ban the event.
© Belfast Telegraph