Friday, 18 July 2008

Iris Robinson – accident or design?

The highlight in what was a slow week for news was the row that erupted on Radio Ulster when Iris Robinson MP MLA, wife of the First Minister, decided to phone in and participate in a radio discussion on abortion. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety issued guidance on the current legal position for Termination of Pregnancy for public consultation on Wednesday. As a Member of Parliament, Assembly Member and Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee, which will participate in the consultation process in due course, some would have thought that Mrs Robinson would have ample opportunity to air her views on this subject without needing to phone into the Nolan Show – a radio show renowned for being controversial and provocative. In the midst of heated exchanges, Mrs Robinson said that “the government has a responsibility to uphold God’s laws morally.”

The comment provoked reaction both for and against her views. This is the second time within a number of weeks that remarks made by the Strangford MP have led to controversy. In June, Mrs Robinson described homosexuality as an “abomination” and suggested gay people could be “turned” heterosexual with psychiatric help.

Some may believe this is cunning ploy by the DUP to appeal to disaffected DUP voters who have deserted the party following the decision by Ian Paisley to enter a power-sharing government with Sinn Féin. The theory is that many of these voters share Mrs Robinson’s religious views and that the ‘hurt’ and ‘betrayal’ they feel over the power-sharing deal will be assuaged by her pronouncements on moral and religious issues.

It is more likely that Mrs Robinson passionately believes her opinions and was simply airing them. It is certainly unlikely to cause the DUP much electoral damage but it certainly undermines her husband’s strategy to broaden the DUP’s appeal.

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