Friday 23 June 2017

Politician's controversial remarks leave children of gay Irish couple in tears

Children are fearful of jail sentence for their dads following remarks made by Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson

George Clarke with his husband Kenny, daughter Tobyn and son Leo pictured at their wedding at Knockninny Country House and Marina last summer
Pic: Belfast Telegraph
George Clarke with his husband Kenny, daughter Tobyn and son Leo pictured at their wedding at Knockninny Country House and Marina last summer Pic: Belfast Telegraph

Ali Gordon

A gay parent has hit out at Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, saying his children went to school in tears last week because of comments made by the DUP leader on TV.

Devoted dad George Clarke, from Newtownards, Co Down, says his children Leo, 11, and Tobyn, 9, feared their married fathers would be sent to jail following Mr Robinson’s controversial remarks about homosexuals and the law on the BBC’s The View programme.

George Clarke with his husband Kenny, daughter Tobyn and son Leo pictured at their wedding at Knockninny Country House and Marina last summer
Pic: Belfast Telegraph
George Clarke with his husband Kenny, daughter Tobyn and son Leo pictured at their wedding at Knockninny Country House and Marina last summer Pic: Belfast Telegraph

“I don’t really care for who Peter Robinson is, but when his party and others like them are the reason my children are going to school in tears then something has got to change,” said the George, who wed his partner Kenny last summer.

On the TV show First Minister Mr Robinson defended Mid Ulster DUP councillor Paul McLean’s right to express the view that homosexuality should be declared illegal, but stressed it was not part of his party’s policy.

Questioned by host Mark Carruthers as to why he was entitled to suggest gay people should be jailed, Mr Robinson said: “I don’t think he’s wanting to throw anyone in prison. I would hope that if it was illegal, people would obey the law.”

Mr Robinson’s shock comments came just days after then-DUP Health Minister Jim Wells’ outburst when he said that “a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non-stable marriage situation, gay or straight.”

He later apologised - but the remarks provoked a storm of controversy.

George Clarke said: “The point was our children were being asked do we abuse them in any shape or form and that is ridiculous.

George Clarke with his husband Kenny, daughter Tobyn and son Leo pictured at their wedding at Knockninny Country House and Marina last summer
Pic: Belfast Telegraph
George Clarke with his husband Kenny, daughter Tobyn and son Leo pictured at their wedding at Knockninny Country House and Marina last summer Pic: Belfast Telegraph

“From the bottom of my — and my husband’s — hearts, we would do nothing to hurt the kids. They mean the world to us.”

George, who runs successful independent film company, Yellow Fever Productions, wed his partner in a civil ceremony at Knockninny House Hotel in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh.

He said: “It’s as if you are gay you are not real, you are not worthy. I believe it’s the fearmongering that the DUP do that keeps them in power.

“I’m annoyed at myself for letting what Peter Robinson has said get to me, but it has.”

George’s children Leo and Tobyn, from a previous relationship, spend alternate weeks at his house and their mum’s.

“Our family life is just natural, like everyone else’s. We can have the odd disagreement or whatever, but so do all families.”

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

George was upset that the First Minister’s remarks had made his young children so fearful.

“I just wish I could wake up tomorrow morning and know that my kids don’t have to worry about their daddies going to jail because they love each other,” he said.

“When you’re a child, your imagination runs wild, especially my two, and they over-think things and then it upsets them and I’m their dad so of course I hate to see them sad.

“I’m nobody special. I’m just a small town filmmaker, but I’m a husband and I’m a father and I think it’s my duty to stick up for my family and protect them.”

George has received messages from complete strangers who wished he had stood as an electoral candidate after he posted a video online about the sorry state of Northern Ireland's equality legislation.

“I just felt like I had to get the message out there that we had to stand up for our basic human rights.  The most natural thing in the world is to love, and everyone has a right to do it.

“If we all have to put on our rainbow balaclavas and put up a fight then I’m sure everyone will be willing to do so because it’s just got to the point where it’s so ridiculous that the DUP and politicians are coming up with these comments,” he said.

George’s latest video, which is expected be posted online later today, reveals the heartache his family have faced in recent weeks.

“Making the video, I got very angry and emotional about what has happened lately and just seeing the kids faces when they saw the video made me shake with anger,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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