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Tuesday 09 November 2010

The Iris Robinson affair: Cougars for Christ?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 11th January 2010

For a change, a female social conservative has been caught in a sex and financial scandal. Yes, I refer to Northern Ireland antigay MP Iris Robinson and her cougarly dalliance with young Kirk McCambley, forty years her junior.

Right-wing scandal: Iris Robinson
Iris Robinson is a fundamentalist Free Methodist and was a Democratic Unionist MP for Strangford, elected in 2001, as well as DUP spokesperson for Health, Young people (!) and Women and Northern Ireland Assembly Minister for Home Affairs (!).

She had an annoying track record of homophobic outbursts in the media and in Northern Ireland's elected Assembly, beginning with her advocacy of discredited 'exgay' reparative therapy on BBC Radio Ulster in June 2008, repeated in the Assembly and in the Belfast Daily Telegraph. Both Iris Robinson and her husband, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, have been criticised for excessive parliamentary expenditure.

In late December 2009, Iris Robinson announced her impeding retirement from politics. In early January 2010, it was subsequently stated that she had attempted suicide and was suffering depression, leading to public sympathy from even some of her LGBT opponents, who hoped that she was now receiving appropriate medical care.

However, it was then disclosed that Robinson (58) had had an affair with young Catholic Ulsterman Kirk McCambley (19) and had helped to fund one of his business ventures and received a donation from him later. She has now been suspended from the DUP and may be about to resign altogether...

(This isn't the first time that the DUP has had an internal sex scandal. In 2005, DUP Westminister candidate Paul Berry left the party after a 'sports massage' with a gay man in a Belfast hotel.)

Robinson's sexual peccadillos and affair are amusing if hypocritical, and like our own Richard Worth's sorry indiscretions last year, are at the mild end of the sex scandal spectrum. At least young Mr McCambley was above the age of consent, unlike the children at the centre of the Capillgate pedophilia cases.

Alone, her infidelity would not be cause for serious censure. What is problematic is the implied and undeclared use of parliamentary service expenditure to assist McCambley's business venture and received a requested donation from him.

Ah well. One applauds female sexual agency usually and does not expect women to act as conservative 'moral guardians' these days. However, questions of financial corruption are more serious- except when it comes to the bizarrely selective morality of fundamentalist Christians, who obsess over sexual ethics but are strangely silent over business and political ethics.

Here endeth the lesson, and probably, Mrs Robinson's career.


Laura Kipnis: How to Become a Scandal: New York: Metropolitan: 2009.

Laura Kipnis: "School for Scandal" Harpers Magazine: March 2009: 318: 1906: 73-77

Democratic Unionist Party:

Craig Young - 11th January 2010

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