Iris Robinson

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Iris Robinson
Member of Parliament
for Strangford
In office
7 June 2001 – 13 January 2010
Preceded byJohn Taylor
Succeeded byJim Shannon
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Strangford
In office
25 June 1998 – 12 January 2010
Preceded byOffice Created
Succeeded byJonathan Bell
Democratic Unionist Party Spokesperson for Health
In office
2001 – 9 January 2010
LeaderIan Paisley
Peter Robinson
Personal details
Iris Collins

(1949-09-06) 6 September 1949 (age 70)
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Political partyIndependent
(from 9 January 2010)
Democratic Unionist Party
(until 9 January 2010)
Spouse(s)Peter Robinson (1970–present)
ResidenceBelfast, Northern Ireland
Alma materCregagh Technical College

Iris Robinson (née Collins; born 6 September 1949) is a former Northern Ireland Unionist politician. She is married to Peter Robinson, who was First Minister of Northern Ireland from 2008 to 2016.

Robinson was first elected councillor for Castlereagh Borough Council in 1989, and served as Mayor in 1992 and 1995.[1] She was a member of the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue from 1995 to 1997. In 1998 she was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for the Democratic Unionist Party as member for Strangford, acting as Deputy Whip[citation needed] and health spokesperson.[2] She was elected as DUP Member of Parliament for Strangford at the 2001 general election, replacing the Ulster Unionist Party's John Taylor. She was re-elected at the 2005 general election.

Robinson describes herself as a born-again Christian,[3] and has publicly stated that "the government has the responsibility to uphold God's laws".[4] In light of this, she was criticised for her views on homosexuality in 2008.[5]

In December 2009, Robinson announced that she would leave politics and withdraw from public life following prolonged periods of mental illness.[6] In January 2010, it emerged that Robinson had an extramarital affair with a 19-year-old in 2008,[7] and she and her husband were faced with allegations of financial impropriety related to the affair. It was announced on 9 January 2010 that her membership of the DUP had been terminated,[8] and that she would stand down from elected office.[9] On 12 January 2010 she resigned from the Northern Ireland Assembly,[10] and on 13 January 2010, she resigned from the House of Commons and Castlereagh (borough).[11][12][13]

Personal life[edit]

The oldest of seven children, Iris Collins was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Mary McCarten and Joseph Collins, an English soldier. She grew up in a working-class area in the east of the city.[14] She describes herself as a born again Christian[3] and attends Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in Belfast.[2] She comes from family with a mixed religious background as ten of her first cousins are Roman Catholics.[15] She attended Cregagh Primary School, Knockbreda Intermediate School and Cregagh Technical College before becoming a secretary.[2]

She married Peter Robinson on 26 July 1970. They were the first husband and wife ever to represent Northern Ireland constituencies in Parliament at the same time.[16] They have three grown-up children: Jonathan, Gareth and Rebekah.[17] Gareth Robinson is also a former Councillor on Castlereagh Borough Council.

Outside politics Robinson listed her interests as charity fundraising for multiple sclerosis, interior design and horseriding.[1][14]

Political career[edit]

Robinson was first elected councillor for Castlereagh (borough) in 1989. She became the Council's first woman mayor in 1992[2] and served as mayor again in 1995.[1] She was a member of the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue from 1995 to 1997. She was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998, representing the constituency of Strangford. She acted as the DUP health spokesperson.[2]

Robinson was elected as the DUP Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for Strangford at the 2001 general election, replacing the Ulster Unionist Party's John Taylor. She was re-elected at the 2005 general election.

Since taking up her seat in the House of Commons, Robinson has voted in 32 percent of votes in parliament, below the average among MPs.[18] In her maiden speech she spoke about the "betrayal" felt by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, criticising the Government's policy on policing.[19]

Robinson's voting record shows that she voted strongly against introducing foundation hospitals, very strongly for the Iraq War, moderately for an investigation into said war, voted moderately against LGBT rights, and never voted on transparent Parliament or on replacing Trident.[18] Robinson also voted for Labour's 42-day terror detention, part of the Counter-Terrorism Bill.[20]

Robinson was suspended from Stormont for a day on 19 November 2007 after refusing to withdraw "unparliamentary" comments she had made about the health minister, Michael McGimpsey.[21]

In an interview with the Sunday Tribune in April 2008, anticipating becoming "First Lady" of Northern Ireland, Iris spoke out against Hillary Clinton alluding to her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky: "No woman would put up with what she tolerated from her husband when he was president. She was thinking only of her future political career. It's all about power and not principle."[22][23]

Comments about homosexuality[edit]

In June 2008, shortly after a physical assault on a homosexual man in Northern Ireland, she made comments on the BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show offering to recommend homosexuals to psychiatric counselling.[24] While condemning the attack,[25] she called homosexuality an "abomination" that made her feel "sick" and "nauseous", and offered to refer homosexuals to a psychiatrist she knew. In a subsequent interview, Robinson defended her views and denied prejudice against homosexuals, saying that "just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ, so can a homosexual.... If anyone takes issue, they're taking issue with the word of God".[26] Her comments were rebuffed by representatives of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Rainbow Project, the Alliance Party,[27] Sinn Féin,[28] and the Social Democratic and Labour Party.[29][30] The psychiatrist in question, Dr. Paul Miller later resigned as her adviser and stood down from his post of consultant psychiatrist at Belfast's Mater hospital. He is no longer a consultant psychiatrist within the NHS and has been reported to the General Medical Council (GMC).[31][32] A police investigation followed these comments, over 100 complaints were made,[33][34][35] and gay rights activist Robert Toner also made a complaint to the Equality Commission.[33][36][37][38]

Robinson subsequently repeated her views in parliamentary session. Speaking in a 17 June 2008 Northern Ireland Grand Committee session on Risk Assessment and Management of Sex Offenders, she said: "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children"[39] She reiterated her statement to the Belfast Telegraph on 21 June 2008,[40] but later stated that she had been "misrepresented" in Hansard.[41] This statement was challenged when Alliance Party Executive Director Gerry Lynch confirmed with Hansard staff that Robinson's comments were in fact correctly quoted.[42] Further controversy was caused on 17 July 2008 when on the Stephen Nolan Show Robinson stated "it is the government's responsibility to uphold God's law".[43] In the Northern Ireland Assembly on 30 June 2008, in a discussion about "LGBT Groups: Mental-Health Needs", Robinson said that "Homosexuality, like all sin, is an abomination", and suggested that teenagers needed help deciding whether they were homosexual or heterosexual.[44][45] During this period, Robinson herself was having an extra-marital affair with a 19-year-old man.[46]

By late July 2008, the Belfast Telegraph reported that "[A]lmost 11,000 people have signed a petition calling on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reprimand DUP MP Iris Robinson over her controversial remarks about homosexuality" and "[Fewer than] 30 people have signed an opposing petition calling on the Prime Minister to allow the comments to go un-reprimanded as a matter of personal opinion and religion".[47] As a result of her comments, Robinson was named "Bigot of the Year" for 2008 by Stonewall.[48][49][50]

Parliamentary expenses[edit]

In April 2009, both Iris and Peter Robinson came under fire after Commons MPs' expenses accounts were leaked to the press. The couple were described as the "swish family Robinson" by the News of the World and Daily Mail after claims that they were receiving £571,939.41 a year in various salaries and expenses,[51] with a further £150,000 in salaries being paid to four of the couple's family members.[52]

Extramarital affair and financial investigation[edit]

On 28 December 2009, and immediately prior to the airing of an investigative BBC programme looking at her personal life and financial dealings, Robinson announced her decision to retire from politics after claiming that she had been suffering serious bouts of stress and depression. At the time she said the stress and strain of public life came at a cost, and that her health had suffered.[53]

On 6 January 2010, Robinson issued a statement in which she said that she had attempted suicide on 1 March 2009. BBC's Spotlight programme revealed on 7 January 2010 that Robinson had an affair with Kirk McCambley, who was 19 years old at the time.[7][54] It is also alleged that she encouraged friends to provide financial backing to assist her lover in a business venture.[55] According to a BBC investigation, the payments she arranged from two property developers to McCambley were £50,000. As the £50,000 was not declared to the Northern Ireland Assembly this action broke the law. Robinson subsequently asked McCambley for £5,000 in cash; as well as a cheque made out to Dundonald's Light 'n Life Church, where Peter Robinson's sister, Rev. Pat Herron is pastor. It is alleged that Peter pressed his wife to return this money – however, he did not inform the proper authorities about the large monetary transactions, which is a breach of his duty and responsibility as First Minister of Northern Ireland.[56] Reports have been made of further affairs, with among others, Kirk McCambley's father Billy, who died of cancer in March 2008.[57]

Robinson's intention to retire from elected office was announced on 11 January 2010[9] and she resigned on 13 January 2010.

Castlereagh Borough Council announced on 14 January 2010 that it had voted to carry out an external investigation in the catering contract awarded to Kirk McCambley. Terms of reference for the investigation include identifying if the Council incurred any financial loss and whether officers and elected representatives complied with the requirements of all relevant local government legislation and guidance in the awarding the lease for the Lock-Keeper’s Inn.[58] On 26 May 2011, the DUP announced that an independent investigation has "cleared Iris Robinson of any wrongdoing in connection with the awarding of a contract to her former teenage lover".[59]

The PSNI announced on 21 January 2010 that they were to conduct an investigation into Iris Robinson's financial affairs.[60] On 20 February 2010 officers from PSNI searched the offices of Castlereagh Borough Council as part of this investigation.[61] On 25 June 2010, it became public that Robinson had been interviewed as part of a police investigation over money she obtained from two developers. [62]

Robinson reportedly received "acute psychiatric treatment" and was under 24-hour suicide watch following the BBC Spotlight documentary.[63][64]

Later years[edit]

It was reported that Robinson had been receiving psychiatric treatment in a London clinic from January 2010 and returned to Northern Ireland on 19 September 2010 to continue treatment.[65]

Robinson made her first appearance in public almost seven months after her return, at the funeral of her mother at Bethany Free Presbyterian Church in County Armagh on 14 April 2011. Among the mourners was Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who embraced Robinson on the steps of the church.

Her husband stated his wife was too ill to attend the Royal wedding to take place 29 April 2011.[66] Robinson did, however, attend the state banquet in Dublin during the Queen's visit to the Republic of Ireland 20 days later on 18 May 2011.[67]


  1. ^ a b c Biography – Iris Robinson, Northern Ireland Assembly Archived 10 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d e "Who is Iris Robinson?". BBC News. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, House of Commons". TheyWorkForYou. 12 May 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  4. ^ The Stephen Nolan Show, BBC Radio Ulster, 17 July 2008 BBC archive
  5. ^ Iris Robinson compares homosexuality to child abuse – Pink News
  6. ^ "DUP First Minister's wife Iris Robinson quits politics". BBC News. 28 December 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
  7. ^ a b "Iris Robinson had teenage lover". BBC News. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  8. ^ Iris Robinson ousted from DUP RTÉ, 9 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  9. ^ a b "Iris Robinson 'to step down as MP and MLA next week' " BBC News, 9 January 2010
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) at footnote 5
  11. ^ "Three Hundreds of Chiltern" (Press release). HM Treasury. 13 January 2010. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Iris Robinson resigns from NI Assembly". RTÉ News. 13 January 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2009.
  13. ^ "Assembly informed of Robinson resignation". RTÉ News. 18 January 2010.
  14. ^ a b The Big Interview: Iris Robinson – Belfast Today
  15. ^ Iris Robinson and her 10 Catholic cousins Belfast Telegraph Website 16 November 2009
  16. ^ McDonald, Henry (14 April 2008). "Ulster's Chuckle Brothers will now give way to Brothers Grimm". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  17. ^ Peter Robinson Archived 27 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ a b – Iris Robinson
  19. ^ UK Parliament – Hansard (House of Commons Daily Debates) – Monday, 25 June 2001
  20. ^ The Public Whip – Voting record summary
  21. ^ "Robinson ordered out of Stormont", BBC News, 19 November 2007, accessed 7 June 2008
  22. ^ "Peter Robinson goes back to work". 7 January 2010. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  23. ^ "The world according to Iris". Sunday Tribune. 20 April 2008. Archived from the original on 12 January 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  24. ^ Listen to broadcast from show archives, accessed 6 June 2008
  25. ^ Tony Grew "MP reacts to homophobic assault by suggesting "ex-gay" therapy for victim", Pink News, 6 June 2008, retrieved 8 June 2008.
  26. ^ Attack victim lambasts Robinson
  27. ^ Alliance blasts Robinson's offensive comments on gay people Archived 14 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Alliance Party, 6 June 2008, accessed on 24 January 2009.
  28. ^ "Gay counselling' call rejected", BBC News, 6 June 2008, accessed 7 June 2008
  29. ^ "Kelly Condemns Homophobic Robinson". Social Democratic and Labour Party. 8 June 2008.
  30. ^ "Mcdermott Slams Robinson's Homophobic Remarks". Social Democratic and Labour Party. 9 June 2008.
  31. ^ Mills, Tara (24 February 2010). "'Cure gays' psychiatrist reported". BBC News.
  32. ^ Belfast Telegraph – "Psychiatrist in gay storm steps down from Belfast hospital", 13 August 2008
  33. ^ a b BBC Will and Testament|William Crawley's broadcasting diary
  34. ^ Moulton, Emily (9 June 2008). "Police probe Iris Robinson's 'gay' remarks". Belfast Telegraph.
  35. ^ BBC News – "New criticism over MP's gay views"
  36. ^ Henry, Lesley-Anne (12 June 2008). "Man suing Iris Robinson over her comments on gays". Belfast Telegraph.
  37. ^ DPP List of independent and political members, 31 March 2008 Archived 15 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ Andrew Muir chronological history Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ Official House of Commons Committee minutes – "Risk Assessment and Management of Sex Offenders"
  40. ^ Belfast Telegraph – Iris: gays more vile than child abusers
  41. ^ BBC', 21 July 2008, "Gay comment inaccurate" – Robinson
  42. ^ "Alliance Party – Hansard confirms Robinson correctly quoted on homosexuality and paedophilia" Archived 3 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ Mark Devenport, BBC blog, 17 July 2008, "God's Law"
  44. ^ The Assembly – Official Report, Monday, 30 June 2008 Archived 6 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ BBC, 30 June 2008, "Gay comments twisted"
  46. ^ Timeline: Peter and Iris Robinson affair allegations, BBC News
  47. ^ Belfast Telegraph – "11,000 demand PM reprimands Iris for her outburst about gays", 23 July 2008
  48. ^ "Who is Iris Robinson?". BBC News. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  49. ^ "Gay cure" MP Iris Robinson voted Bigot of the Year at Stonewall Awards
  50. ^ "Who is Iris Robinson?". BBC News. 29 December 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  51. ^ BBC, 6 April 2009, Robinson rejects 'swish' pay tag
  52. ^ Daily Mail report on the Robinson's salaries and expenses
  53. ^ Iris Robinson quits politics due to depression
  54. ^ McDonald, Henry (7 January 2010). "Peter and Iris Robinson face questions after BBC documentary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  55. ^ Wife of Ulster's First Minister, Peter Robinson, admits to having an affair
  56. ^ "Iris Robinson business deal broke law". BBC News. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  57. ^ "Iris Robinson is accused of having three more lovers as she receives acute psychiatric treatment", Daily Mail, 11 January 2010
  58. ^ "Initial Terms of Reference". Castlereagh (borough). 14 January 2009. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  59. ^ "DUP say Iris Robinson and Castlereagh council cleared". BBC. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  60. ^ PSNI begins inquiry into Iris Robinson's finances, The Irish Times, 21 January 2010
  61. ^ PSNI in Iris Robinson council searches BBC Website 21 February 2010 Retrieved 21 February 2010
  62. ^ Iris Robinson questioned over developers' money, BBC, 25 June 2010
  63. ^ Iris Robinson receiving acute psychiatric treatment BBC Website 11 January 2010
  64. ^ Newspaper reports on Iris Robinson 'pure fantasy'- DUP BBC Website 22 February 2010 Retrieved 22 February 2010
  65. ^ "BBC News – Iris Robinson back in Northern Ireland for treatment". 19 September 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  66. ^ Sarah Rainey (14 April 2011). "Iris Robinson back in public eye as she mourns her mother". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  67. ^ Lesley-Anne Henry (19 May 2011). "A very public return to the limelight as Iris Robinson meets Queen". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 19 May 2011.

External links[edit]

Northern Ireland Forum
New forum Member for Strangford
Forum dissolved
Northern Ireland Assembly
New assembly MLA for Strangford
Succeeded by
Jonathan Bell
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Taylor
Member of Parliament for Strangford
Succeeded by
Jim Shannon