Graham Norton is furious over RTE's homophobia payout to gay marriage opponents

Presenter Graham Norton has called Irish broadcaster RTE's decision to pay opponents of gay marriage an 85,000 euros settlement "absolutely moronic".

It came after Catholic lobby group the Iona Institute and two prominent Irish journalists threatened legal action after being described as homophobic on an episode of the Saturday Night Show.

Norton told Irish magazine Hot Press he was "furious" about RTE's decision.

He also said gay marriage opponents were "out of touch" with new Ireland.

"I'm not registered to vote in Ireland but I do pay the licence fee there," said Norton, adding that he was "furious that some of my money has gone to these idiots".

"RTE settling wasn't gutless, it was absolutely moronic," he said.

Irish female impersonator Panti Bliss had singled out four members of right-wing group the Iona Institute and two Irish newspaper columnists during a programme last month, saying they were "horrible and mean about gays".

The Iona officials and journalists John Waters and Breda O'Brien, who are all vocally opposed to gay marriage, claimed they had been defamed and threatened to sue the broadcaster.

The broadcaster has defended its decision to settle out of court.

In his Hot Press cover interview Norton said he was disappointed that the journalists had decided to take legal action instead of examining why they might be accused of homophobia.

Although he said he has no desire to get married himself, Norton added: "I want to ask these people, 'Why are you so scared and intimidated by the idea of gay marriage?'"

Norton said attitudes had changed a lot since he was growing up gay in west Cork, and spending his summers there in recent years, he had found it was "such a different place".

"It takes pride in accepting all types of people. There's more than 40 shades of green," said Norton.

He added: "This tiny minority can yell all they want, but it's over. It's all done. The Iona Institute, and people like that, are like rats trapped in the corner of a barn. They know the jig is up. That's why they're screaming so loud."

However, he added that he was glad gay marriage opponents existed as "they drag everyone towards the centre".

"You hear their opinions and suddenly you're a little bit more tolerant - because you don't want to be them!"

Norton also took to Twitter yesterday after reports of his comments appeared in the Irish press.

He wrote: "Various Irish papers quoting me as saying RTE payout was gutless. I actually said the opposite. Not gutless. It was moronic."