Ireland was once romanticised as being called The Isle of Saints and Scholars. Indeed, with the amount of both that came from Ireland – from St. Brendan’s voyage to America around the Year 500AD to the sublime poetry of William Butler Yeats in the early twentieth century – I’d like to think that Ireland deserved this title for quite some time. Thanks to recent events, however, I begin to wonder if this is the case any longer.
As the Irish government released the Murphy Report, an investigation into the decades of child sex abuse by members of the Catholic Church, shockwaves spread out from Dublin to all over the world, especially to America and Britain where a large proportion of the Irish Diaspora reside. Bishops were strongly encouraged to resign, and it finally came to light how corrupt the Church, once the backbone of Irish society, truly was.
Just a few miles north of the border, a pretty Protestant politician by the name of Iris Robinson was turning out to be far from the Virgin Mary. The politician initially announced to the British & Irish media that she was to step down from politics in Northern Ireland, giving up her seat as MP in the constituency of Strangford, County Down. Although she would have rarely been talked about outside of Northern Ireland, the LGBT community of both Britain and Ireland had already heard of this woman after she called homosexuality an ‘abomination’ in the Stormont Parliamentary buildings in 2008, while also comparing it to child abuse.
As Protestants and Unionists, I can imagine both Iris Robinson and her husband Peter having a field day when the Government of the Republic released the Murphy Report, revealing how rotten the Catholic Church was in Ireland. The beloved religion of their traditional enemies, the ‘Fenian Bastards’ – as the Northern Irish so lovingly call those in the Republic – was full of corruption, scandal and sin. Little did any of us know at the time, however, that Iris herself was full of a sin of a different kind.
Soon after Iris stepped down from politics in Northern Ireland, the media wanted a better excuse from her than her initial reason, claiming ill mental health. Seek and you shall find, the scriptures claim, and it seems to be quite true. Iris had been committing a major sin of her own, despite slamming gay people for their actions; she had been having an affair with a 19-year-old, an age gap that almost validates being regarded as child abuse. Despite of the age gap, however, adultery is certainly a sin that isn’t looked upon too well within any faction of Christianity. What’s worse (or better, depending on your viewpoint) is that she soon attempted suicide. Two mortal sins, Iris? My word, you’re certainly ambitious.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Iris, despite apparently being such a fervent Protestant, forgot this very valuable line from the Bible. Her words against homosexuality paved the way for her to be branded ‘the Wicked Witch of the North’ by many in the LGBT communities in Britain and Ireland, with apt tribute paid to her in the Belfast Pride march of that year. Peter Tatchell has recently stated that while he sympathises with Peter Robinson, he called Iris a ‘hypocrite,’ and I find it very hard to disagree with him. While I am not Christian at all (an Irishman who is neither Catholic nor Protestant – go figure!) I do believe in Karma. In the story of the Fall & Fall of Iris Robinson, my belief in Karma is now stronger than ever.
Dublin, 10 January 2010
Scott De Buitléir is a writer and radio presenter based in Dublin. You can listen to his LGBT radio programme, ‘The Cosmo’ every Wednesday from 8-10pm GMT on RTÉ Pulse; www.rte.ie/pulse