But then within 24 hours the unthinkable happens: Peter Robinson, 1st Minister and leader of the DUP appears on TV to reveal that his wife Iris has had an affair which has rocked their marriage to its foundations and actually 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 emphasize 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. Peter stood behind his wife when in 2008 she declared in public that homosexual people were 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 escaped prosecution for this and other outbursts was a disgrace and raises serious questions about legal protection for members of the gay community in
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 Iris 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 Robinson’s 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 1st Minister’s interview this evening 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 Robinson’s for allowing condemnation to continually trump compassion in their public pronouncements. Iris Robinson’s career is almost certainly over but if her husband expects to continue in his vital role in
Read Bock the Robber's take on the story HERE