THE wife of Northern Ireland's new First Minister, DUP leader Peter Robinson, sparked outrage yesterday by offering to put gay people in touch with a psychiatrist who would help make them heterosexual.
Just one day into his new job, Mr Robinson saw his wife Iris, who is also the DUP's health spokeswoman in the Stormont Assembly, dragged into a massive political row.
The Strangford MP launched a stinging attack on homosexuality on a live radio phone-in show after a 27-year-old gay man was beaten up in a homophobic attack near his home and left with horrific injuries.
Mrs Robinson described homosexuality as "disgusting, nauseous, loathsome, shamefully wicked and vile" and said her strong Christian upbringing meant she would never change her views and nothing would stop her from speaking out on the issue.
Mrs Robinson said she utterly condemned Wednesday night's attack on gay man Stephen Scott, who was knocked to the ground by three young thugs who punched and kicked him as he lay helpless and unable to defend himself in the street.
The victim was attacked in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, and is recovering in hospital where he is being treated for broken ribs, a fractured wrist, leg and head injuries.
He said he thought he was going to die in the attack after which he was left lying on the roadside.
Mr Scott said yesterday: "As far as I'm concerned, the people who did this to me are scum.
"There were three of them against me and I was left for dead."
But Mrs Robinson refused an invitation to meet gay men and women to find out more abotu the problems and prejudices they face in their lives.
Declining the offer from David McCartney of the gay support group, The Rainbow Project, she said: "I do not need to put my hand into the fire to know I will get burned."
She then offered to put gay and lesbian people in touch with a psychiatrist who she described as a born-again-Christian who would help them change their sexuality.
Mrs Robinson told BBC's Nolan Show: "I have a lovely psychiatrist who works with me and who tries to help homosexuals turn away from what they are engaged in.
"He is a Born Again Christian and has links all over the world and I have met people who have been turned around to become heterosexual and who have gone on to get married and raise families.
"Homosexuality is not natural. My Christian beliefs tell me that it is an abomination and that is very clear.
"It is an offence to God, an offensive act and something that God abhors.
"My Christian beliefs tell me to love the sinner but hate the sin, so I condemn the people who went out and kicked that gay man.
"I am clearly not saying that I want people to thrash the living daylights out of a homosexual man or women, because I don't."
But Michael King from the Royal Society of Psychiatrists said there was no evidence people could obtain psychiatric help to stop them being gay. He said such treatment was potentially harmful.
Professor King added: "There is a lot of evidence going back 50 years to suggest that attempts to change people's sexuality in either direction are not possible.
"Such treatments do not work and can actually cause quite a lot of harm. Homosexuality is a state and a sexual orientation and is not a question of behaviour."
Sinn Fein Assembly member Caitriona Ruane took issue with Mrs Robinson's remarks.
She said: "It is very disappointing to hear an MP and an Assembly member making these comments because we all have to abide by equality laws, including those governing people's sexual orientation.
"I do not think it is right using terms like 'abomination' to describe homosexuality."
The Rainbow Project's David McCartney said Mrs Robinson was entitled to her views but she should meet members of the gay and lesbian community in Northern Ireland so she could get a better understanding of their hopes and fears.