Here’s to you Mrs Robinson….

… Jesus loves you more than you could know, even if everybody else has the knives out for you and your husband.

You can’t really blame the Schadenfreude enthusiasts can you? Iris Robinson made the headlines over a year ago by not being shy in forthcoming on the Biblical stance on homosexuality. Throw in a few abominations, add to that some ill-conceived discussion about the similarity to child abuse and who wouldn’t be public enemy number one?  It appears though that there were a few abominations (Lev 18:20,26) closer to home. On top of that there are issues of financial probity that affect her husband Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s First Minister.

It’s enough to make you say “hypocrite“.

Actually, perhaps better language to use might be “sinner”.  Yes, there we have it ladies and gentlemen, Iris Robinson is a sinner. Who’d have thought it? A human being, a senior politician, a pillar of the Ulster establishment is, after all, not perfect.

But, and this I find really interesting, she knows that. Read her statement again and you see that she gets what she’s done.

Everyone is paying a heavy price for my actions. Psychiatrists may suggest that my mental illness was a significant factor explaining my irrational behaviour. I do not, in any way, question or doubt their judgement, but in order to master my life, I do not want to dilute the blame or resist taking full responsibility for my actions. I am completely ashamed and deeply embarrassed.

I am aware that I did not only hurt Peter, I hurt my family and friends. I let down thousands of people who placed their faith in me and though my medical condition was a factor, I was not, at this time, true to the values, I professed. I grieve that I have damaged my profession in Christ, but I am comforted that He was able to forgive even me.

I do not deserve a second chance but I have been given one. Nothing is more important to me.

I sincerely apologise to all those I have hurt and let down. I have inflicted deep pain on my husband Peter, my family, friends, staff and all those who have supported me. I am so, so, sorry.

Powerful stuff and a model confession. “I was wrong. I can’t blame anybody else. Even though I was ill I was still responsible”. And there’s more, because in her sorrow Iris recognises that her actions have damaged her witness to Christ (which is of course why many are celebrating her fall). Of course that’s the same for all of us isn’t it – the moment that we start making judgements about others the world is just waiting to make a judgement about us (ironically, often at the same time that it quotes Matthew 7:1-2 at us for judging in the first place. Aaahhh… the world’s a funny place).

But the killer (as it were) of Iris Robinson’s confession is the line, “I do not deserve a second change but I have been give one”. Oh yes Iris! Absolutely right – that’s the good news, that Jesus loves us so much that his death on the cross gives us a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixty, seventy times seventh chance,  as long as we realise that we need the power of his shed blood. As a moderately cool Tribe put it two decades ago – We don’t get what we deserve. We don’t. Those who are in Christ and trust him for their future don’t get what they deserve. They deserve the due results of their sin and instead they get eternal salvation.

Let’s be honest – the political career of Iris Robinson is over and my hunch is that her husband Peter’s future as Northern Ireland anything (let alone First Minister) is going to be pretty short lived. But you know that’s OK, because if they realise (and I think they do) that their worth is based on what Christ has done for them and not what the world thinks of them, they’ll be fine in the grand scheme of things. To be sure (trust me on this), confession of sin and the truth of affairs is hugely painful, but it pales in comparison to the wounds that really do heal such sin and brokenness. The Cross of Christ is a place of curse and sin and failure that can be celebrated and revelled in because it is the place where our shame and disgust and abomination are crucified and destroyed for all time.


Schadenfreude indeed.

13 Comments on “Here’s to you Mrs Robinson….

  1. If the revelations about Robinson’s affair and her dodgy financial dealings had not come to light, would she have come clean to her husband and to the public? I don’t know, maybe she would, maybe not. In these cases it is always hard to know whether the remorse and shame is at actually doing wrong or having been found out in those acts.

    I believe Robinson said that the thought of gay people together made her feel sick. Now she feels sick at the thought of herself as a hypocrite, liar and adulterer, or at least at the thought that others would know this of her.

    Robinson seemed to attribute some of her behaviour to mental illness and often those who express disgust and horror at other perceived sinfulness and see them as “contaminated” are not the most balanced and emotionally healthy of individuals.

    It is possible that her intense disgust at homosexuality was a projection of her repressed disgust at her own behaviour.

    Of course all sinners are forgiven but Robinson is clearly a deeply damaged individual and I hope she genuinely has the inner strength and honesty to truly learn from this, rather than just knowing the words to say to make a “model” Christian confession. (I am never very comfortable with the “model” Christian idea anyhow.)

    A very sad case in so many ways.

    • Robinson seemed to attribute some of her behaviour to mental illness

      To be fair to Iris, I think she is very clear that any mental illness she may have is absolutely no mitigation for her actions. I also don’t think that guessing at her internal dynamics (“projection of repressed disgust”) beyond what she has herself admitted to gets us anywhere.

      • I don’t know, Robinson’s comments were really extreme and didn’t just express disapproval but intense personal disgust that wasn’t terribly rational. Given that she could make such comments when at the time she was presumably committing adultery with a nineteen year old man does suggest a frightening schism between her public and private self – which did she consider to be the true Iris Robinson? Did she even know?

        I do think asking this question “gets us somewhere” because it points back to what we are shown in the gospels, that when we focus on the sins ( especially the sexual sins) of others we are in peril of being blind to our own sinfulness and unable to be honest about ourselves before God.

  2. I’ve surprised myself in not experiencing the least bit of schadenfreude over this. On reading Iris Robinson’s initial statement, I thought it was pretty damned tragic, and again when hearing Peter Robinson read his own gut-wrenching statement.

    But as the story has unravelled, I have had less sympathy for Iris Robinson, and have become more skeptical of her public apology. In retrospect, what she left out of the statement doesn’t reflect well on her. She apparently glossed over the three most damning details: that her lover was only 19 at the time of the affair, that she abused her office to support his business venture, and that she misappropriated funds.

    As for accepting full responsibility – words, just words. I don’t presume to know whether she really meant it, but nor can we take it for granted that she was being totally honest, in light of the omissions. After all, she could pretty much bank on people letting her off lightly because of the mental illness and suicide attempt – even with her explicit acceptance of responsibility.

    I admit, at first it looked like a very frank apology, but as the increasingly incriminating details emerge, it looks more and more like that familiar ploy of politicians caught with their pants down – a damage limitation exercise.

    • I wouldn’t have blamed you in the slightest if you’d even felt a smidgeon of schadenfreude actually Dave. And yes you’re right that as the story goes on the pit of sin that Iris Robinson has been digging just gets deeper and deeper. To be honest, I think Peter Robinson won’t last long as once it becomes clear what and when he knew about his wife’s inappropriate financial arrangements (let alone her sexual arrangements) his position will be untenable.

      Makes you realise just what forgiveness is about and that sometimes people really need it. There, but for the grace of God…

  3. I can sympathise with Iris Robinson, in that I know what depression is like; I once suffered from it for a short period many years ago.

    I can’t sympathise, however, with the ill-judged remarks about gays that she made back then, particularly her comparing us to paedophiles, and for which she has not apologised. She didn’t just quote the words of Scripture: she ranted. I’m surprised that she didn’t reflect that “People who live in glass houses…”; that there is “a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:7); and that the time at which she uttered her unfortunate vituperation was definitely the former.

  4. That’s a fair article Peter and I wish Iris & Peter all the best with the rest of their life. I don’t like using the word sin, but we all at some points need to ask forgiveness for falling short of the standards we should reach.

    But there is a double standard that Iris and some evangelical Christians employ that does need to be called out:

    Iris Robinson felt it her duty to try and stop lesbians and gays gaining equal rights in her role as a legislator because they are sinners (in her eyes. There wasn’t any recognition in anything she said that she recognised that we’re all “sinners”.

    At the time when she stated that being a homosexual was the equivalent of being a murderer, she was carrying out an adulterous relationship. I don’t care who she’s sleeping with, but she made it her business who everyone else was sleeping with to make sure it fitted her chosen religion. That’s what I feel uncomfortable with.

    A final note, Iris Robinson has apologised to vast numbers of people, but not to any lesbian or gay person, who in the absence of any contrary evidence, she must continue to believe is as evil as a murderer.

    Now she’s played her divine reusable get out of jail free card, do you think that she’s more likely to get into Heaven than a gay man?

    • Now she’s played her divine reusable get out of jail free card, do you think that she’s more likely to get into Heaven than a gay man?


      Do I think she more likely to get into heaven then anybody who isn’t repentant? That’s the right question to ask isn’t it Andy.

  5. Her words have an undeniable power and self-awareness. But I have difficulty when placing that alongside Peter Robinson’s statement as reported in today’s Independent that he “unable to get any coherent responses” from her – to specifics about the financial problems (I assume). Maybe she can’t handle the details of what happenedand can only look at the big picture, but ontherwise someone (Peter Iris or the newspaper) is not telling the truth.

    (This site kills firefox for me – runs v v slowly takes ages to scroll , is this just me? Didn’t use to be so bad)

  6. Just to be clear, let me write something that I know will be controversial:

    Iris got it right but didn’t go far enough. Every reader (that includes me) of this blog is just like a paedophile. Dirty sinners in desperate need of grace.

    The scramble for Paul’s ‘Chief of Sinners’ tag continues to be epic. Such is the nature of human sinfulness.

    So for every person out there with any form of sexual sin in their lives, you’re just like a paedophile. But you’re no different to those struggling with other kinds of sin.

    Isn’t the truth of Peter’s blog posting fantastic! Grace

  7. The darkest aspect of this story is that Mrs Robinson first had an affair with Kirk’s father when he was alive, and promised to look after his son. In the context of this promise, she has behaved like a sexual predator with no respect for appropriate boundaries. Of course Kirk would have been delighted to pleasure such an old woman, but it was the responsibility of Mrs Robinson to clarify the boundaries. It is deeply saddening to see such moral poverty.

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