Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 12:53 UK

'Gay counselling' call rejected

Iris Robinson
Iris Robinson said gay people should seek counselling

A gay rights campaigner has rejected a Northern Ireland assembly member's call for homosexuals to seek psychiatric counselling.

David McCartney from the Rainbow Project was responding to comments from Iris Robinson, who is the chair of the Stormont health committee.

Mrs Robinson said with help, gay people could be "turned around".

Mr McCartney said there was "no body of evidence" to support this and asked to meet the MP.

Mrs Robinson made her comments on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show on Friday.

She said she would defend her right to express religious beliefs, while also condemning violence against the gay community.

"I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals - trying to turn away from what they are engaged in," she said.

"I'm happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around and become heterosexuals."

Sinn Féin's Education Minister Catríona Ruane said politicians should be guided by equality legislation.

"There are equality laws in the north of Ireland," she said.

"I think it is really important that politicians play a leadership role and that leadership role should be not to say anything that could possibly inflame the situation or cause further distress."

In a statement the Royal College of Psychiatrists said that homosexuality was not a psychiatric disorder.

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