Ulster Unionist Ken Maginnis has caused a major stink in Northern Ireland with his radio attack on same sex marriages.

Lord Maginnis, the well known politician has triggered a row within the Ulster Unionist Party over his claims.

Speaking to Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan show, Maginnis condemned the ‘deviant” practice of homosexuality’.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt later made it clear that the comments from Maginnis were his own and issued instructions that party members had first get permission from the party press office in future before talking to the media.

Proposals to legislate for gay marriage in Britain are currently under discussion, with Maginnis clearly opposed to the notion, according to a report in the Irish Times.

It says that, in the course of the radio interview, Lord Maginnis said: “I oppose gay marriage because it is unnatural. I do not believe society should have imposed on it something that is unnatural.

“This is really based upon sexual practice. Does that mean that every deviant practice has to be accommodated? Will the next thing be that we legislate for some sort of bestiality?”

When asked if he was equating gay sex with bestiality, Lord Maginnis replied: “I am saying it is a rung on the ladder.

“I have a right to define homosexuality as I see it. I do not think we should be doing anything to encourage this deviant practice.”

Party leader Nesbitt and the UUP later distanced themselves from the comments.

In a statement, the party said: “Lord Maginnis was speaking in a personal capacity without our knowledge or permission, and his comments do not reflect Ulster Unionist Party policy.”

Alliance Assembly member Stewart Dickson urged UUP leader to take disciplinary action against Lord Maginnis.

John O’Doherty, director of the gay rights organisation the Rainbow Project, told the Irish Times that Lord Maginnis should: “Retract his prejudiced and uninformed comments and apologise for the damage he has caused. I also call on the UUP to denounce the comments.”

Ulster Unionist Ken MaginnisPhotograph: Paul Faith/PA