Robinson support for McConnell sparked widespread outrage

Peter Robinson leaves the Belfast Islamic Centre in May 2014 after apologising to members of the Muslim community. Pic Philip Walsh.

It was support for Pastor James McConnell’s inflammatory comments that plunged First Minister Peter Robinson into a controversy that proved as newsworthy as the sermon itself.

In an interview with the former DUP leader in the aftermath of the 2013 European elections, Mr Robinson told The Irish News that he supported the firebrand preacher’s comments.

The East Belfast MLA said Pastor McConnell had been demonised because of his remarks and that he did not have “an ounce of hatred in his bones”.

Mr Robinson said that it was a duty of any preacher to denounce what he described as “false prophesy”, before going on to say that he would not trust Muslims either, particularly those who had been involved in violence, or those “fully devoted to Sharia law”.

He did, however, say that he would trust Muslims to “go down to the shops” for him or to deal with a number of other “day to day issues”.

The remarks sparked outrage, international headlines and led to the cancellation of a trade mission to the Middle East.

Mr Robinson was forced to make a public apology to representatives of the Muslim community at Belfast Islamic Centre.

“I apologised face to face, personally, man to man, the way it should be done,” he said afterwards.

Subsequent to the remarks, Mr Robinson declined all further requests for an interview with The Irish News.

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