Gay election candidate suffers homophobic abuse at chapel
A GAY election candidate has said he felt "degraded" after suffering homophobic abuse while canvassing outside a Catholic church in Co Antrim.
Connor Duncan was distributing leaflets after Mass at St Mary's Church in Glenravel, outside Ballymena, when he said a couple shouted abuse.
The SDLP assembly candidate for North Antrim claimed the woman told him he was "sick in the head" and called him "disgusting" and "filth".
He said she also tried to block the car park exit with her vehicle and refused to move for other Mass-goers until Mr Duncan and his two canvassers left the area.
Mr Duncan said he contacted police to make them aware of the incident, but he does not intend to pursue a complaint at this stage.
The PSNI confirmed it was aware of the issue, which happened on Sunday morning.
Mr Duncan, a Catholic himself, said he had already endured some "underlying homophobia" while canvassing, but described the incident as "direct homophobic abuse".
"I was shocked at this barrage of abuse because I have never really experienced it before," the 28-year-old said.
"It was a bit upsetting, the fact that that's what people are saying about you is not a nice feeling. You can feel a bit degraded."
Mr Duncan said the couple took issue with them offering leaflets to parishioners as they left the church car park following Mass.
"People had the choice to take a leaflet or not. We have done this for years, other parties have done this. It's a common approach across Ireland."
He said the woman told him he had a "mental illness" and added: "You're sick in the head, you can be cured if you want to be cured".
"They said 'There's something wrong with you, you can't call yourself a Catholic, you chose this lifestyle'.
"She had blocked the car park. No-one could get out properly onto the road. It was totally dangerous what she was doing. People were sympathetic and apologising to me."
Mr Duncan said they left the area, adding that his six-year-old god-daughter who was with him was upset by what happened.
However, he said the woman then confronted him again when he went to explain to the priest what had happened.
"She came barging into the sacristy and started shouting, 'This man is wrong – he's spreading stuff about gays'."
Mr Duncan said most people in the area were shocked by the incident, and it has made him more determined.
"It made me more focused, that there's people out there who need someone to stand up for them in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community – and that's what I intend to do," he said.
Several political parties have candidates from the LGBT community contesting this year's assembly election.
Rainbow Project director John O'Doherty said: "The truly despicable homophobic abuse which Connor Duncan has had to endure is totally unacceptable.
"LGB&T people have the right to seek public office in Northern Ireland without being described as 'disgusting' or 'filth'.
"While attitudes are changing and increasingly Northern Ireland is a place where LGBT people feel included and welcome, these attitudes are not uncommon.
"Much greater, coordinated political leadership is required to consign these outdated and bigoted views to the dustbin of history where they belong."
Meanwhile, People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll has blasted suggestions that voters should avoid smaller left-wing parties at the polls in favour of Sinn Féin.
Responding to comments by Irish News columnist Jim Gibney, the assembly candidate for West Belfast said his party would "fight austerity and all forms of inequality north and south of the border".