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Let's tell Iris Robinson where she can stick it!

That's the rather piquant name of a Facebook group at the heart of a fightback against homophobia in Northern Ireland.

The four thousand-strong campaign group on the social networking site is just one element of an online and offline campaign to challenge the anti-gay comments of Iris Robinson, an MP, MLA, Councillor, Chair of the NI Assembly's health committee (and, coincidentally, wife of our First Minister, Peter Robinson).

In a BBC interview a few weeks ago, being questioned about a violent homophobic assault near Belfast (she condemned the assault, by the way) she called homosexuality an abomination, disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile. But Iris, what do you really think!?

If we were in any doubt, we soon found out. This week we discovered that she had told a Commons Committee meeting last month: "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children."  Maybe you'll need to read that again. That's right, basing her beliefs on selective biblical scriptural reading, she told the committee of MPs that love between consenting adults is "viler" than child sex abuse. If she were not in such a position of political power in Northern Ireland, I'd say she was more to be pitied than scorned.

Anyway, the Northern Ireland gay community and its supporters, are determined to fight back. Over one hundred (and counting) people have reported her to the police for alleged hate crime. Complaints have been made to Westminster, the Assembly and the Equality Commission.

A Downing Street online petition, calling for the Prime Minister to reprimand her, has now taken over 10,000 signatories, currently making it the sixth largest on the PM's site. Iris Robinson, by her outrageous comments – for which there is undoubted support among a segment of her voters – has motivated and mobilised the local LGBT community in a way which hasn't been seen since the anti-Belfast Pride protests of three or four years ago.

Speaking of which, the Belfast Pride festival gets under way this Saturday. As usual, Amnesty International supporters will be out in force with our Love is a Human Right message.

The Belfast Amnesty Group is busy making hundreds of placards for the massive Pride Parade on August 2nd. Iris's idiotic outbursts have already guaranteed that the 2008 parade will be the biggest ever (5,000 last year – hey, I remember when it was just a dander!). This year we are highlighting the plight of persecuted Pride activists across eastern Europe – and Amnesty's LGBT campaign materials are already distributed through lots of venues on Belfast's gay scene.

For the first time ever we are holding an Amnesty International Pride Lecture  as part of the week-long festival. The great news is that Peter Tatchell  – love him or loathe him, you can't ignore him – will be delivering the lecture, before joining the panel of Pride Talks Back.

Peter is well-known for many episodes in his long and courageous campaigning career, including his attempted citizen's arrests of President Robert Mugabe and his being attacked at Moscow Pride last year. On Monday next he will be in Belfast to talk about 'the global struggle for LGBT freedom'.

One person whom I expect to be there is Jeff Dudgeon, a legend in the local struggle for LGBT freedom. It was the case he brought some thirty years ago to the European Court of Human Rights that finally, in 1982, led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland. (See Dudgeon v. United Kingdom.) I bumped into Jeff a couple of weeks ago at a Human Rights Consortium conference (he is now an activist within the Ulster Unionist Party) and he expressed his admiration for Tatchell's courage and willingness to challenge accepted wisdoms, including within the gay community itself.

Tickets for the Lecture available through the Belfast Welcome Centre.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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