Peter Tatchell has spoken out in defence of Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman and said they were both victims of homophobia.
Tatchell, an LGBT activist in the UK, condemned "fabricated allegations and homophobic slurs" on social media following the publication of a photograph of the two men at a Pride March in Dublin in 2018.
The new minister made a statement recently about online attacks against him since the publication of the photograph and said he would not have posed for a photograph with Tatchell if he had been aware then of controversy surrounding the campaigner's views on the age of sexual consent.
The minister said the public event in 2018 was his first and only meeting with Peter Tatchell. In a statement to the Sunday Independent, Tatchell said: "Critics are unfair and cowardly to smear Roderic O'Gorman because he once had his photo taken with me. It smacks of a McCarthyite-style witch-hunt to tar him with guilt by association. He did not know my views on consent issues and he's never endorsed them.
"Both Roderic and I have been subjected to a Twitter 'lynch mob' - some of whom have sent vitriolic, abusive messages, including fabricated allegations and homophobic slurs. I've received chilling noose images, which makes me worry for my safety.
"What I've said about paedophilia and the age of consent has been grossly misrepresented on social media in the past week. I unreservedly condemn child sex abuse. It is abhorrent. As I argued in the Irish Independent in 2008, it is best if young people do not have sex at an early age. They should wait until they are older and more mature.
"I believe the age of consent should remain at 16 but consenting sex involving teens under 16 should not be prosecuted, providing there is no more than two or three years difference in their ages. This is the law in Germany, Switzerland and Israel. It means that consensual sex between persons aged 14 and 15 is not prosecuted, but sex between a 14-year-old and a person aged 18 or older remains a serious criminal offence.
"This tiered age of consent system protects young people against sexual exploitation by adults," he said.
O'Gorman said: "There are no circumstances in which sex between an adult and a child is acceptable." The minister said online claims he is unsuitable for his role because he is gay are "homophobic".