Iris Robinson came to the attention of the mainstream during the summer of 2008, when she compared homosexuality to paedophilia. For those of you unschooled in the intricacies of Northern Ireland politics, Robinson is the wife of Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland. She’s also a member of the legislative assembly in her own right, a local councillor and an MP – as a career politician, should really know more about the impact of her words.
In June 2008, she suggested that the victim of a homophobic attack visit a psychiatrist she knew so that he could be “cured”. In the ensuing furore, she went old-time biblical, calling gays “an abomination”. All while she was the Minister for Health in Northern Ireland.
“I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable. I feel totally repulsed by both.”
In recognition of all her good work for advancing the cause of equality, Stonewall named her their ‘Bigot of the Year‘ in 2008, an award I’m sure she was delighted to receive. I know it delighted me. The BBC broadcast the DUP’s annual conference in 2008, where her husband got a few chuckles from the dinosaurs in attendance when he mentioned her lack of political correctness (see his speech here).
It’s not about being PC. It’s about respecting people and treating everyone equally. And (ideally) it should be about keeping your personal religious views separate from work… especially when religion has had such a negative impact on society, as in Norn Iron.
So why is this second-rate bible-thumping bigot in the news again? She’s stepping down from both of the parliaments of which she is a member – leaving the Northern Ireland Assembly immediately and leaving the Westminster Parliament at the next election, which will take place in the next five months. She is putting it down to mental health issues of her own, citing her own experience of depression as part of the reason for her exit from public life.
I wouldn’t wish mental health problems on anyone – depression can be a debilitating illness. While I definitely won’t miss Iris Robinson (apart from the sheer comedy value) or her intolerant pronouncements from public life, I hope she’ll recover soon for her sake and that of her family. My only worry now is that the less-than-tolerant DUP party of which she is a member will find someone equally vile to take her seat in Northern Ireland (where they don’t have to run a by-election when a politician resigns) and in Westminster.