Controversy over Robinsons
Madam, – Tearful television interviews; sincere apologies; no wrongdoing; allegations of cheques from property developers, sterling cash handed over, and belated attempts to repay gift/loan money; deceased witnesses; a struggle to stay in office and consultations with legal advisers.
I know a man in Dublin who could help them explain this unfortunate debacle. – Yours, etc,
Madam, – And this is the woman who railed against loving same-sex couples trying to regularise their commitment. – Yours, etc,
Madam, – Northern Ireland is one of the more conservative societies in Western Europe and that is not a criticism but a statement of fact. This conservatism is no doubt in part because of so many years of violent strife which have polarised and entrenched whole communities. So, even after years of “peace” the leadership of the DUP could not see their way to attending the funeral of Cardinal Cahal Daly who was universally recognised as a man of peace and a staunch critic of those who took up arms in Northern Ireland. It is clear he was no friend of Sinn Féin or the IRA! Though the DUP response was hardly surprising, it was disappointing to see this opportunity for inclusive and courageous leadership squandered.
The First Minister seems to forget that he leads the whole people of Northern Ireland not just those who adhere to his religious/political stance. The Roman Catholic community of Northern Ireland had the right to expect that at least a representative of the First Minister would attend the funeral of their former religious leader.
But then, within 24 hours, Peter Robinson appears on TV to reveal that his wife Iris has had an affair which has rocked their marriage to its foundations and led Iris to an attempt at suicide. One has to have sympathy for any couple who have endured such terrible trauma.
That is the proper human response. We may squirm as I did when I heard him place the blame firmly on his wife and emphasise his own forgiveness for her, but if that is the way they want to play it so be it. They live in a black and white world and in that world you are either good or bad, at fault or blameless. I could not occupy that world but I am I and they are themselves.
It is, I think, an impossible standard they set for themselves and one which makes failure all the more devastating and destructive. However, that would be their own business were it not for the fact that as a couple they have imposed this standard on the people who they claim to represent and lead. Mr Robinson stood behind his wife when in 2008 she declared in public that homosexuality was an “abomination” and . . . made her feel “sick” and “nauseous” and that “just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ, so can a homosexual . . . If anyone takes issue, they’re taking issue with the Word of God”. That Iris Robinson was not prosecuted for this and other outbursts was a disgrace and raises serious questions about legal protection for members of the gay community in Northern Ireland.
I am genuinely sorry that after her affair she found herself in the situation where suicide seemed to be the only way out and I hope and pray she finds the help she needs to recover from this. However, I am also acutely aware of how many gay people have been driven to self-harm and even suicide because of such callous black and white statements by people who claim to speak on behalf of God.
I came across this quote this week which is particularly instructive in the light of Ms Robinson’s previous outbursts: “You can tell you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do” – Anne Lamott.
I would like to think that the Robinsons’ traumatic experience of human frailty would make them more sympathetic to the many shades of grey that make up the human condition. It is clear that the First Minister’s interview during the week was a plea for sympathy and support from the public.
As a fellow human being I find it hard not to be sympathetic, but that sympathy demands something more than either Robinson has given the people they serve to date. It demands a humility and repentance, not from Iris Robinson for her “inappropriate” behaviour, but from both Robinsons for allowing condemnation to continually trump compassion in their public pronouncements. Iris Robinson’s career seems to be almost certainly over, but if her husband expects to continue in his vital role in Northern Ireland politics he needs to show far less arrogance and a lot more conciliation in his political dealings. I am not confident but I am hopeful. – Yours, etc,
Madam, – Why was I not surprised to hear of Iris Robinson’s affair? I think I have Freud to blame for it. Way back, he wrote that when someone accuses somebody of immorality that the likelihood is that they themselves are guilty of an immoral act. They project their own sin onto another (or others) and so feel less guilty themselves.
When I remembered that Iris Robinson accused gay people of being engaged in an “abomination” when they expressed their love and affection, well, one can only say that Freud got it right.
Ms Robinson now says she is “so, so sorry”. (Home News, January 7th). She says this to her husband Peter, to her family, to her friends, to staff and all those who have supported her.
Is there any chance that she could also say “so, so sorry” to the many gay and lesbian couples who are in loving and faithful relationships and upon whom she projected her own abominable behaviour? – Yours, etc,
Madam, – “And here’s to you, Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know . . . Heaven holds a place for those who pray (hey, hey, hey).” – Yours, etc,