Ombudsman asked to probe remarks

Sha Gillespie, chairperson of Foyle Pride flies the Rainbow Flag at the launch of the Foyle Gay Pride Festival 2015. 250815CG
Sha Gillespie, chairperson of Foyle Pride flies the Rainbow Flag at the launch of the Foyle Gay Pride Festival 2015. 250815CG
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The chairperson of Derry’s Foyle Pride said she plans to write to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Tom Frawley, regarding comments made by Deputy Mayor of Derry, DUP Councillor Thomas Kerrigan.

Sha Gillespie was speaking after stating that she was “very disappointed” following a meeting to discuss the matter with representatives from Derry City and Strabane District Council on Thursday afternoon.

A total of nine complaints have been lodged with the council over comments made by Deputy Mayor Thomas Kerrigan , who has stood over his earlier remarks that gay people should turn to God to be healed and refused to apologise for the remarks, stating that he had “no regrets.”

His comments were made after the vote on equal marriage in the Assembly. When contacted on the issue, he commended his own party after it lodged a Petition of Concern, which effectively killed off any chance of equal marriage becoming law.

Afterwards,he said: “The word of God tells me that as far as ‘the other’ is concerned, woman was made for man and the rib that was taken out of man was closest to his heart.

“I think there is an emptiness there and I believe prayer can change that.”

Sha Gillespie was among those at the meeting with Council. In a statement afterwards, she accused the council of “failing to take any steps” to distance itself from Colr. Kerrigan’s remarks.

She added: “As long as there no public statement Derry City and Strabane District Council can regrettably be seen to be condoning these opinions.

“I had a very friendly meeting with council representatives and was advised that there is no internal mechanism in place for them to confront this type of behaviour.

“I am very disappointed that the council has no means of preventing the Deputy First Citizen or any other given councillor from making homophobic comments.”

Ms Gillespie vowed: “I will not sit back and allow these comments to go unchallenged and will take the matter up with the Ombudsman.”

A council spokesperson yesterday confirmed that nine complaints in total have been received. She added that the council “is not in a position to comment on the personal or religious views of its elected members,” adding that all elected members must ensure that their conduct complies with the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors as set out by the Department of the Environment.