I imagine you will be aware of the sordid sexual, financial and political scandal that has engulfed Councillor Iris Robinson MP, MLA (to give her the titles that go with all three of her political jobs). If you are unaware, then the basic gist of it is that this married woman of 59 was having sex with the 19 year old son of a friend of the family, whom she had known since he was 9 years old. So far, so tacky, and one does wonder at what point her interest shifted from quasi-maternal to sexual – apparently she told a political aide that the teenager felt like a son to her, even while she was fucking him, which raises some fairly sordid possibilities. Anyway, not content with violating her sacred marriage oath, the 7th and 9th commandments, and her secular legal duty of faithfulness to her husband (who is, when he’s not trying to come to terms with being cuckolded by a teenager, Northern Ireland’s First Minister), the fundamentalist christian decided to also violate her ethical responsibilities as a Councillor, a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and an MP.
She wanted to help her fresh-faced fuck-toy set up in life as a café proprietor, and to that end she persuaded two close associates of her husband to lend her £50,000, which she passed on to the boy in question (though she later asked him for a 10% kickback). She did not declare the money, as she was required to by the codes of conduct she was bound by as an elected representative in several official bodies. She also failed to declare an interest while taking part in the council meeting that decided to award the tenancy of the café to her barely-adult boy-toy. Even having decided to separate from her fuck-buddy, she did not make a clean breast of things, but instead continued to lie, both to her husband, and to the wider public. Until earlier this week she was apparently still seeking a court-order that would have prevented the BBC from publishing the details of her startling hypocrisy.
Ms Robinson had already announced her intention not to stand for re-election to any of the posts she holds, citing health problems. It is unclear what the future holds for her husband, but there are allegations that she may have caused him to violate the Ministerial Code of Conduct, which, if true, would make it extremely difficult for him to remain in office. Some political commentators in Northern Ireland have expressed concerns that, were Mr Robinson to fall from office, the power-sharing executive might fall with him. That executive is probably the greatest achievement in more than 40 years of Northern Irish politics, and has been tirelessly worked at by scores of politicians on both the Nationalist and Loyalist sides. How sad that it may be under threat, and all as a result of Iris Robinson’s inability to restrain her lust for a teenage boy.
Having been caught out, Ms Robinson has claimed to be suffering from a serious mental illness – specifically, depression – and to have unsuccessfully attempted suicide in the immediate aftermath of her husband discovering her infidelities. I am, as always, profoundly sorry to hear that anyone is suffering from mental anguish, and I am also extremely glad that she did not succeed in taking her own life – suicide is never the right answer to a short-term difficulty. Depression is a truly foul thing, and I hope and trust that she will receive the help and support she needs to recover fully, and to discover again the impressive depths of personal conviction that have carried her so far in life.
That said, I feel I must draw attention to the fact that, prior to being found out, Ms Robinson was apparently capable of holding down three high-stress jobs in politics, and of making numerous outspoken appearances in the media, and that this punishing workload is not something that most mentally ill people would be capable of. I feel I should also point out that feeling intense distress when you realise everyone will find out that you have betrayed your god, your husband, your constituents and your country is not necessarily a sign of mental illness. In fact, it may very easily be a sign that your emotions are functioning exactly as a sane person’s would.
Those of you with a long memory may remember that this is not the first time I have written about Ms Robinson in this blog. A little over 18 months ago, I wrote a rather long-winded post inspired by Ms Robinson’s then-current comments on homosexuality. Ms Robinson, when invited to comment by a radio interviewer, had chosen to assert her view that the victim of a recent homophobic attack was guilty of ‘abomination’, and had spoken of the need for gay people to seek a quasi-psychiatric ‘cure’ for their ‘condition’. At the time I wrote that post, I seem to have been mainly concerned that, by using the word ‘abomination’, Ms Robinson was invoking a part of the bible which calls for gay men to be put to death, and suggests that they bear responsibility for whatever is done to them in the name of god’s law. (I was concerned that this might be interpreted in some quarters as a tacit suggestion that the homophobic thugs had been right to attack, even though she had begun her remarks with a pro forma condemnation of them.) I was also concerned that her comments were generally bigoted, scientifically misinformed, and liable to make life worse for Northern Ireland’s already-beleaguered gay community.
I still stand by those concerns, but an extra dimension has been added to them by the discovery that, at more or less the same moment she was making these comments (and vigorously defending the right of christians to stand up for ‘moral standards’ against the forces of ‘political correctness’) she was engaged in an extra-marital affair with a boy 40 years her junior. On the basis of what I knew at the time, I couched my attack on her position in language appropriate to a disagreement with a person who sincerely held a point of view with which I radically disagreed. Had I known that, while condemning gay women and men who live lives of absolute monogamy and mutual devotion, this almost-a-pensioner was busy seducing a teenager into adulterous sex, I might have been inclined to take a rather harsher line.
I might, for example, have drawn her attention to Luke, Chapter 6, verse 42:
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye;
You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
But do you suppose when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
I might also have pointed out some of the more immediately obvious differences between me and her:
- I have never had sex with a boy young enough to be my son, let alone my grandson;
- I have never violated wedding vows;
- I have never carried on a sexual relationship with someone else behind my partner’s back;
- I have never solicited money from my partner’s friends in order to reward the lover with whom I am betraying my partner;
- I have never arranged financial benefits for someone in the hope that they will have sex with me.
Having emphasised these things, I might have enquired, in a rather pointed tone, just where in the hell she gets off telling me how I ought to behave.
As always when a high-profile christian is caught out in flagrant hypocrisy, she has, apparently, already been forgiven by god. Once again, I’m struck by how convenient it is that christians can live lives of vile, loathsome hypocrisy and have only to say ‘sorry, god, I won’t do it again’ and they are instantly forgiven, and can go right back to the vile, loathsome hypocrisy until next Sunday, when god will, without a hint of a demur, forgive them all over again. I will be more inclined to believe in the sincerity of Ms Robinson’s remorse if, once she has recovered her health, she makes a point of personally apologising to all the gay couples in Northern Ireland for having criticised the validity of their relationships, when they are clearly worth a damn sight more than Ms Robinson’s sham marriage.
But perhaps I won’t hold my breath.
On a related note, I find myself unable to locate Jan Moir’s comments on the Robinson affair, and I am frustrated by this failure in my research abilities. I’m sure it must be my failure. After the high-profile hypocrisy of Tiger Woods’ marriage, and the high-profile hypocrisy of Iris Robinson’s marriage, this trenchant moral critic would not want to pass up the opportunity to emphasise how the obvious difficulty heterosexuals have in containing their lusts ‘gives the lie to the happily-ever-after myth’ of straight marriage. I mean, Jan Moir is, by her own furious assertion, no homophobe, so she must be treating widely-reported problems in gay and straight relationships the same, right? Right?
Perhaps I won’t hold my breath on this one either.