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Ensign, Sanford, Robinson

I was reluctant to make any comment about the Iris Robinson story when I first heard it, particularly given the background of mental instability. But as the facts emerged, and particularly the timing of events, I do think it worthy of comment. Whatever sympathy I do have is tempered by the fair criticism of hypocrisy.

We know from Peter Robinson’s statement that the affair happened before March 2008. It was then on 30 July that Iris Robinson, MP, MLA, said in a House of Commons committee (at 5.38 p.m.) on sex offenders, “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.” Though she deservedly got the flack for that, her husband, First Minister Peter Robinson, later backed her up, saying, “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was the Almighty”. At the DUP party conference in November, Peter Robinson made light of his wife’s tendency to ignore political correctness.

I can’t but be reminded of senior US Republican Party figures who fell into disgrace last year after their adulterous affairs emerged. We had Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, both of whom admitted to having affairs in June 2008. Both were members of the religious organization, The Family, which has a record of helping its members cover up affairs, covered by Jeff Sharlet. Both voted to impeach President Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky affair. Both oppose allowing gay couples to marry or granting them any legal recognition, leading them to be termed supporters of family values (though neither made comments on the issue as bigoted as those of Mrs. Robinson).

Of course there is no necessary contradiction between opposition to homosexual relationships, either in the absolute sense or in legal recognition, and having an affair, except, of course that the same book cited to condemn the former includes a prohibition on the latter in the Ten Commandments. What really came to mind about Mrs. Robinson’s subsequent comments on hearing of her affair with a 19-year-old man were words from the scripture, the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 7, Verses 1–5:

1Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

She made her bigoted remarks, which her husband backed up, after they had come to terms with her affair. Was it a warped case of the lady doth protest too much?

I wish the Robinsons no particular ill will. What I would particularly hope is that those who had previously listened and paid heed to Iris Robinson in condemning the relationships of others will think carefully about and re-evaluate such reckless utterances.

Correction: It being the beginning of the year, when I read that she’d made her comments about homosexuality in 2008, I put that in the category in my mind of “last year”. It is, of course, nearly two years (it didn’t feel as recent as that), before her husband found out about her affair, but after she had started it.

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