Northern Ireland

Party distances itself from Maginnis comments on gay marriage

Ken Maginnis
Image caption Lord Maginnis condemned 'deviant' practices

The Ulster Unionist Party has distanced itself from critical comments on gay marriage by one of its former MPs.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan show, Lord Ken Maginnis condemned "unnatural" and "deviant" practices.

"Lord Maginnis was speaking in a personal capacity without our knowledge or permission, and his comments do not reflect Ulster Unionist Party policy," the party said in a short statement.

A gay and bisexual charity has said his remarks are "reprehensible."

However, speaking later Lord Maginnis said: "I am not ashamed of what I said, I'm not ashamed of the stance I took."

John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project said: "At a time when an Equality Commission survey has found that negative attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender people in Northern Ireland have significantly hardened it is reprehensible that a senior politician should claim that people in loving and committed relationships are 'unnatural' and deviant.'

"Many LGB&T people feel isolated and vulnerable in their communities and the ridiculous claims made by Lord Maginnis only compound this isolation.

Earlier, Ulster Unionist party leader Mike Nesbitt sent an email to party members saying: "Following this morning's edition of the Nolan Show on Radio Ulster, I wish to make it clear to every member of this party, that should you wish to speak to the media on any subject, you should, in the first instance, receive clearance from the party press office."

Meanwhile, UUP councillor Adrian Cochrane-Watson has had the party whip withdrawn from him after he appeared on the BBC without clearing it with the press office.

Image caption Danny Kinahan said he had "long wanted" his own office

Mr Cochrane-Watson said he was given the news on Wednesday morning by telephone by council group leader in Antrim, councillor Mervyn Rea, who was acting on party instructions.

He was told this was because he had failed to clear his interview with the party press office.

He also confirmed to the BBC that assembly member Danny Kinahan had moved out of the office they shared in the town in Fountain Street.

He said Mr Kinahan moved out two weeks ago.

Mr Cochrane-Watson said a lease was signed back in September 2011 for another 18 months so he was "very surprised" to hear some weeks ago that Mr Kinahan was pursuing his own arrangements.

He added it was for Mr Kinahan to "make clear" why he had moved out of the office, and was now occupying his new office on High Street, 500 yards away.

Mr Kinahan said there was no personal animosity between himself and Mr Cochrane-Watson.

He said he had long wanted his own office as an MLA and when the opportunity for a prime location came up, he took it.

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