I was far too young to remember the notoriety of multiple murderer Malcolm McArthur turning up as a house guest in the Attorney General's house in 1982, never mind the equally scandalous phone bugging affair, which brough the end to a government, and made a name for Madam O'Carroll-Kelly editor. She was also, for a while, a rather good FG TD, a shame we lost her again, then again the voting public are none too grateful about quality FG TDs - look at poor Nora Owen - sure who would stand on a fading premise after that unfortunate shocker back home in Fingal county.
Anyway, I was at first slightly bemused by the account of Irisgate, the now notorious account of whats appears now to be a complete depressive breakdown, then an account of an affair with a "businessmen", some talk of questionable financial transactions, and finally the big shocker - the "businessman" was in fact the 19 year old son of a late friend.
I had to pinch myself and make sure I haven't been drinking one too many vermouth and tonics lately. Did I really hear 19? It appears that I did.
Like a lot of people I was saddened and distressed to hear Mrs R trot out the tired old rhetoric of Leviticus when asked to comment on a homophobic beating in her area. All she had to say was the street violence was unacceptable, that random violence was unacceptable, oh and get well soon, young man. What she did instead, was launch into a tirade against the Ghays. Not content to dig that far she went on to slander a "lovely psychiatrist" who could turn you all right. Then you can go out and meet your dream of wives and babies, etc. No more fudge packing abominations for you, sir!
The victim of the attack now says the comments made his life a misery. As for the community, they stood up and were counted. Belfast had one of its biggest ever pride in 2008, but on the Monday following, I just happened to take a shopping trip up to Belfast with my mother, and happened to switch on Radio Ulster in the car. There was just that extra little bit of confident vitriol from the negative callers, the typical result of careless talk from a public figure. The reality is, Mrs R knew full well that not condemning the attack was a tacit justification, and her condemnation a round message that somehow, little queers who dared wander out on their own on the fringes of Belfast get just what they deserve.
This is why the people who've been trying to paint up Robinson as some kind of parallel to her namesake out of Mike Nicholas The Graduate are wrong. There is a hell of a difference between a priviliged but bored middle class housewife in 1960s LA and product of decades of rabid sectarian obstructionism. Bancroft's Creation is the product of a mixture of mostly good with a minor spot of bad fortune, of a society with no true choice. Her Ulster namesake might have had that excuse 20 years ago, but there are always means and ways to go quietly and with your dignity intact.
For Mrs R is no swinging predator, but a born again with little compassion for seuxal outsiders. They are to be turned from their sinful ways and transformed. Even the psychiatrist, Millar, found himself in the position of having to resign quietly, as connections he had to the deeply discredited ex gay Richard Cohen and the organization NARTH, exposed this myth. What is unfortunate is that a fairly senior psychiatrist could manage to practice a form of treatment that is not medical, deeply discredited and for something that was removed from the DSM 30 years ago.
Nor is Mrs R any kind of example to liberal womanhood. There are only two radical breakthoughs to this situation: her extramarital affair, and the age of her lover. This is where the comparison she drew between homosexuality and paedophilia got particular sinister - she's known this lad since he was 9, yet was willing to build a sexual relationship with him. And throw her entire career and indeed lifestyle on the line, by the sounds of it.
And yes, as Rod Liddle points out in the Spectator, however repulsive you might find homosexuality, sex with a boy 19 years your Junior and only a year or two out of school doesn't exactly put you on the moral high ground in relative terms. In fact, as somebody pointed out, the only thing missing from the case was the fact that Mrs R hasn't been drinking from the furry cup. At least, we presume not. But after this revelation, would you be surprised? It would be almost impossible to top this? Or would it be? The Sunday World maggots seem to think so in trepassing on McCamberley's property. They are well convinced that there is more dirt to dig, quite probbly simply because there has already been so much.
Somehow, though, I don't think there is much more there beyond heartbreak and tragedy. Mr R's candid interview with the Belfast Telegraph indicated that the lady was under lock and key in psychiatric care (quite possibly, far from all the conspiracy theories, it sounds to me like the first lady has had a breakdown and been sectioned which is not very nice, especially for a woman of her position). She's being kept well away from the shame and ridicule now being heaped upon her. She dug herself into one hell of a hole and just couldn't stop.
The problem with Iris was not that she had morally dubious relationships with teenage boys 40 years her junior. It wasn't even that she had extra marital affairs, or took cashback for herself whilst trying to set McCamberley up in business. It wasn't even not declaring an interest - come on, who in their right mind who declare an interest in the business of somebody you're having an illicit affair with?! It was that she had previously explicitly thrown stones at other sexual outsiders.
As a moral deviant herself, it was incredible to think she could barefacedly go on Radio Ulster and express a belief in the eternal damnation of queers. In doing so, she signed her own deathwrit as a woman of no compassion. That is why she is now an object of ridicule, shame and justified anger.
Personally, I don't think however, I have any more right to condemn this unhappy woman than anybody else. How could she know any better, coming from the rigid, repressive DUP tradition? In that case, I think its time to let her go and get back to the business of putting together workable political outcomes that will allow normal people to get on with their own lives with the fear of being shot at, kneecapped or blown to bits.