What did Iris say?

Three cheers for that bureaucratic pain, but first defence of human rights section 75 for taking Gay Rights to the top– even creating a ruffle in the Robinson household perhaps? And two cheers for the Belfast Telegraph for digging out the story under FoI ( great headline guys, you kept it simple). And to Pink News for, well, celebrating the news.

“First Minister to authorise grants despite wife’s outspoken comments
80,000 to gay groups within the next seven months — despite his wife’s controversial views on homosexuality.”

Officials have also confirmed that Stormont grant-aid totalling £100,000 was allocated to the gay sector during Ian Paisley’s period as First Minister.
It has further been revealed that money from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) helped fund this year’s Gay Pride parade in Belfast.”

So they were all at it! Mind you, the Bel Tel must have got a pretty broad hint when they read that Assembly written answer…
In a reply to a written Assembly question, Mr Robinson and Martin McGuinness stated: “The Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSO) contributed to the 2007 and 2008 Belfast Gay Pride Parade, awarding £5,750 and £5,000, from a fund of £230,000 which was awarded by the previous Direct Rule administration.”

Peter doesn’t sound as if he actually enjoyed making the award. We can take in for granted his junior minister isn’t best pleased either . Iris’s stout defender Jeffrey Donaldson has placed himself at the forefront of opposition to gay rights at every turn, resisting the Order making it illegal to refuse male gay partners a hotel room during that last “stick and carrots” period of Direct Rule.

The DUP jibbed at the time but they should thank Peter Hain for giving them political cover today. The fact is, Peter Robinson had no choice but to make that donation and he’ll find it impossible to refuse similar payments in future. His hands are tied. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s privately happy with that. He above all politicians has the wit to know that some battles are over and others are not worth fighting. He will bide his time until the penny drops with his backwoodspersons, including the one who shares the master bedroom with him.

This news is a clear case of the legal constitution taking precedence over the political constitution. Thankfully – and in NI especially – we no longer live in a world where everything a politician says, goes.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London