Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking hit British theatre like a…
Theresa May has jumped into bed with the DUP, despite the consequences this could have for the peace process in Northern Ireland. But who are they and what does the Democratic Unionist Party stand for? I wrote this a while back, but it illustrates the problems of mixing fundamentalist belief with politics.
Iris Robinson, wife of Peter Robinson, the First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly has proved herself to be a homophobe, a hypocritical Christian and a priestess of financial impropriety. She could learn a lot from her affair with a teenage butcher, argues Stewart Who?
Every once in a while a story comes along that ticks all the boxes with regards to drama, intrigue and poetic justice. As a gay with Irish Catholic roots, the current situation with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and his wife Iris has proved a rollicking read.
Last year, Iris Robinson, previously the Democratic Unionist Party MP for Strangford, found herself investigated by police after complaints regarding comments she made in June 2008. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, she said: “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.”
Pray the gay away
Robinson then appeared on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show and hinted that being gay was a form of mental illness. She said: “I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals – trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.
“I’m happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around and become heterosexuals.”
In many ways, Iris Robinson is Northern Ireland’s Sarah Palin, but it’s the context of such quips that really highlights her Christian heart. They were in response to the news that a 27-year old gay man called Stephen Scott was left for dead in a violent homophobic attack in Newtownabbey, in her constituency.
Incitement to violence
Robinson’s lack of sympathy, in fact, her casual incitement to violence, led to such an avalanche of complaints that she faced the thin arm of the law. A police investigation examined claims that her comments breached hate crime laws, but no charges were brought. That’s what happens when you rely on the thin arm in a largely homophobic culture.
When the MPs expenses scandal broke, the Robinsons were caught with their sanctimonious snouts in the trough. They’d both tried to claim for the same £1,223 expenses on the same day. They also claimed more than £150,000 for the salaries of their staff, with Mr Robinson employing their daughter Rebekah as office manager and private secretary and son Gareth as parliamentary assistant.
Iris Robinson employed their other son Jonathan as office manager and daughter-in-law Ellen Robinson as part-time secretary. According to reports, the couple claimed the controversial second homes allowance last year, receiving a total of £40,342. They own three homes in Belfast, London and Florida worth more than £1.3million.
They spent almost £20,000 on flying between Belfast and London. Understandably, the press nicknamed them the Swish Family Robinson. It’s one thing to hold illiberal, possibly dangerous views, it’s quite another when my gay taxes go towards feathering the nest of a couple who’d be happy to see me ‘cured’ or kicked to death.
The financial revelations may have brought a wry smile to the battered face of Mr Scott, but more was on its way. Spotlight, a BBC Northern Ireland current affairs programme revealed that in the same month that Iris declared homosexuality an “abomination” she was herself revelling in the teenage flesh of a certain Kirk McCambley.
Bonking the butcher
Aside from the adultery, it transpires that her young lover was the son of a local butcher who’d recently died. She offered a shoulder to cry on, a bed to romp in and no doubt got cheap chops to boot. On the BBC programme, Mr McCambley spoke about his relationship with Mrs Robinson.
He said: ‘I worked in the butchers since I was nine and I always seen her coming in and out. I knew her from a very early age through the butchers and through my dad.”
In many people’s eyes, bedding a kid you’d known since the age of nine would be described as ‘grooming’. The fact that she was in a position of power, a friend of the family and that the young man was grieving the death of his father might draw accusations of an abuse of trust, but let’s not dwell.
Nineteen year old boys (and girls) can be sexually confident, surprisingly mature and let’s admit it, occasionally quite attractive. One might even applaud the woman if she wasn’t (a) married (b) equating gays with paedophiles (c) planning to lend her lover £50,000 to kickstart his own catering business.
You’d think that her situation might give her an insight into sexual desire. Despite the fact that fiddling with the teenage sausage vendor might wreck her marriage, incur the wrath of God, devastate her husband, end her career, embarrass her family and it seems, potentially wreck the Northern Ireland peace process, she still couldn’t stop herself.
Yup, Iris, sexual desire can be hard to resist, even when it’s viewed as “abominable”. It’s called being human. It isn’t a sign of mental illness. Sadly, this insight bypassed Mrs Robinson
Oddly enough, it’s the financial fiddling with the butcher’s kid which brought about her downfall. She persuaded two local developers to stump up the cash, and then asked for a £5,000 backhander. Not only that, when the relationship soured, she demanded all the money back, insisting it be paid via her local church for which her sister is pastor.
Since then, there’s been an attempted suicide and now she’s receiving ‘acute psychiatric treatment’. What does that mean? Do you think she’s requested a cure…and that they’re making her into a homosexual so she doesn’t get into this kind of mess again?
Either way, Iris, here’s wishing you a speedy recovery from your propensity for corruption, abuse of power, hate speech, adultery and hypocrisy. We’ll be monitoring your progress and keeping an eye on your glass house full of stones.