It is precisely because events like this one are still happening today that I wince whenever I hear someone claim anything along the lines of ‘peace has been brought to Northern Ireland’.
Just because terrorists are no longer able to carry out major campaigns of violence in mainland Britain, it does not mean that politics in Ulster have been pacified. Sometimes I feel as if our London-centric mainstream media forgets this.
There are still significant numbers of people there who believe they are justified in engaging in political violence when the democratic process does not go their way. It sadly looks like incidents such as the one that occurred earlier today will remain fairly routine for the forseeable future.
The revelations about Iris Robinson, however, have been far from routine.
Last week the gay-bashing, evangelical Christian MP and wife of Northern Ireland’s first minister revealed that she had been battling depression and would be retiring from politics. It then emerged that she had attempted suicide and had had an affair. Soon enough, we were all reading in amazement that Iris Robinson (60) had been playing away from home with a 19 year old. And now it seems like dodgy finances were involved and Mr. Robinson has some uncomfortable questions to answer.
I agree completely with Peter Tatchell on the Robinson revelations:
“I’m sorry for the pain that Iris Robinson has suffered but she’s a hypocrite. Even now, despite her own adultery, she expresses no regret for her harsh, judgemental moralising against gay people. She is sad and two-faced.
It is terrible that Iris Robinson has been driven to attempted suicide and a mental breakdown. I feel very sorry for her. But it is a great pity that this painful experience has not softened her heart towards the suffering of lesbians and gay men.
Even now, she expresses no regret for her harsh, judgemental moralising against gay people. Iris seems as unforgiving as ever. She’s still unrepentant about her homophobia.”
More than most parts of the UK, Northern Ireland is a place where religious fanatics have a strong presence in politics. It’s inevitable that incredible examples of hypocrisy amongst the most powerful and high-profile God-botherers will come to light now and again.
This all reminds me of similar stories from the US, such as when it came out that staunch racial segregationist Strom Thurmond in fact had a black daughter. Or when it was discovered that fundamentalist conservative preacher Ted Haggard had been playing around with male prostitutes and crystal meth.
Ok, maybe not quite as extreme an example of hypocrisy (Robinson’s lover was a bloke rather than a lady, after all), but still getting there.