Friday, January 08, 2010

Peter Robinson – a man more sinned against than sinning

As Cranmer was writing his previous post ‘As you make your bed, so you must lie in it’, he confesses that he might have had other politicians in mind.

A few days ago, it appeared right and proper (to His Grace at least) to leave Iris Robinson to heal her wounds and Peter Robinson to heal his broken heart. Condemnation upon personal trauma is cruel, and criticism of those who are suffering quite heartless.

And Cranmer was himself fiercely criticised for expressing ‘sentimental favouritism’ and of ‘bare faced, cherry-picked hypocrisy writ large’ in his compassion for those with whom he was deemed to have a certain religio-political affiliation. He was falsely accused of condoning adultery while condemning homosexuality, of ‘getting on bended knee to pray for this woman’ while being content to revel in the purgatorial pains of the likes of Harriet Harman.

But that was before Mammon entered the frame.

Of course, the allegations made by the BBC’s Spotlight programme have to be properly investigated. And Mr Robinson is right to consult his lawyers to discuss issues of defamation, libel, insinuation and innuendo. It appears likely that Mrs Robinson, an MP, an MLA and a councillor (where does she find the time?), broke the law by not declaring her financial interest in a business deal. There is more than a whiff of corruption in the allegation that she obtained £50,000 from two property developers and paid this to her 19-year-old lover Kirk McCambley to help him launch a new café. And quite inexplicably, despite her vast income, flashy cars and three houses, it is alleged that she later asked him for £5,000 for herself.

It is further alleged that Peter Robinson failed to properly report these improprieties and to act in the public interest, and he will doubtless defend himself. He has already forgiven his wife as he is commanded to. And he must forgive her 70x7 times should such a further chronic series of calamities befall their partnership.

But Eamonn Mallie tweeted earlier today: “Peter Robinson doesn't know what we in the media know”.

And that is most ominous.

Cranmer does not know how Eamonn Mallie knows what Peter Robinson does or does not know. But he does know that the lies which conceal the half-lies and the unknown knowns which are about to be heaped upon the known knowns will greatly erode expressions of compassion, even from the most devout DUP theocrats.

When the Robinsons decided (or were ‘obliged’ by circumstance) to discuss their marital problems in public, it was a desperately sad and personal affair. But the allegations made by Spotlight have made the matter acutely political.

In the empires of politics and the temples of religion, when avarice is combined with extravagance, lust, hypocrisy and pride, we have the makings of an Inferno or at least a Purgatorio worthy of Dante. What has befallen Peter and Iris Robinson is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions: we have the handsome young suitor cuckolding the king, the sexual hypocrisy and self-righteousness of Angelo, the greed of Shylock, the arrogance of Lear, the ambition of Lady Macbeth and a Hamlet-like contemplation of suicide.

Is it any wonder that Peter Robinson might feel like expressing the wrath of Othello as he is besieged by a pack of baying Iagos.

Cranmer has considered Iain Dale’s point about the age gap between Mrs Robinson and her lover: she was 58 while he was just 19, which Mr Dale equates with paedophilia.

And one of Cranmer’s communicants makes the observation that if this had been a homosexual liaison, it would have been denounced as a perverse ‘grooming’ of young boys in the fashion of Ancient Greece.

The opinions are valid, but they are not facts. It was neither paedophilia nor was it ‘grooming’ as the laws of the State defines these terms.

But the laws of God?

When an older person engages in a sexual relationship with a person who is 40 years their junior, eyebrows may be raised and the gossip in the pews may be disapproving. But God looks at the heart.

Yet when an older person engages in a sexual relationship with a person who is 40 years their junior, and that younger person is receiving financial inducements from the older in order to better their life, God might indeed be frowning.

There is little difference between Mrs Robinson’s relationship with a 19-year-old Kirk McCambley and that which a teacher might be tempted to form with a student of similar age.

The former may have been pressured into the relationship for financial reasons, the latter as a means of securing higher grades. Either way, teenagers manifestly desire to succeed and make progress in life and so are vulnerable to the possibility of forming inappropriate relationship with authority figures. As the law of the State protects students from this (even after attaining the age of majority), it accords with the laws of God which would seek to guard all vulnerable subordinates from a corrupting influence or an abuse of power.

Thanks to the BBC, we now know that Iris Robinson did not only betray her marriage vows but is perceived to have broken the law and abused her power. She had known Kirk McCambley since he was just 9 years old: he said “She looked out for me and made sure I was OK and obviously anyone who has lost a parent knows it is an incredibly hard time and she was there to help.”

And ‘perceived’ is the important word, for this is politics in which seeming is all, and it is why Peter Robinson may have no choice but to voluntarily lay his head upon the block and submit to the inevitable axe. He is not his wife’s keeper, but the two manifestly vowed to become one 40 years ago. She is entitled to a private life and so is he, but not when one or the other stands accused of financial impropriety and the failure disclose interests. Their marriage may be for richer or poorer, but their reputation is in tatters following the revelation that Mrs Robinson enriched herself in contravention of the law. They may be united for better or worse, but they can no longer work together, for the worse will only worsen. Mr Robinson may support his wife in sickness and in health, but it is difficult to argue that this will not be a distraction from his role as First Minister.

He may now have greater understanding of the anguish of Hosea, to whom God gave an adulterous wife in order that he would feel the searing hurt and bleeding pain caused by the unfaithful children of Israel. But Hosea was a prophet, not a king.

Peter Robinson is a king in Northern Ireland, put there by God to rule with justice and righteousness.

One cannot help but feel, hearing the anguish of his heart, seeing the tears of pain as he talked of his wife’s infidelity, and witnessing the unconditional flow of forgiveness which followed his wife’s repentance, that he may have fulfilled his kingly role and now is the time to name his political successor.

Peter Robinson has contributed much in his 40 years of political involvement: he has risen to the very top by being honourable, canny and wise. But whatever he has fulfilled politically, whatever he contributed to the bringing of peace to Northern Ireland, whatever he accomplished behind the scenes following the departure of his mentor Dr Paisley, he will be remembered in history for his heart-rending forgiveness of a contrite and repentant wife: he is the incarnation of the heart of the Christian faith.

There is no doubting that the downfall of Peter Robinson is unjust and his resignation will be a blow to the politics of Northern Ireland. Like Lear, he is a man more sinned against than sinning.

But it is time for the First Minister to heal the one he loves, to weep day and night at the side of the one with whom he vowed to remain for better or for worse, until death do them part. And that will require unique patience, obsessive commitment and infinite sensitivity.

And, with apologies to Thomas More:

“Peter, it profits a man nothing to give his wife for the whole world... but for Northern Ireland?”


Anonymous Stephen Gash said...

Pass the tissues.

What with Mandelson, the Robinsons, Huett and Hoon, there is barely a dry political bed left in the kingdom.

8 January 2010 at 16:46  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Cranny, your Christian sentiments regarding the response of Mr Robinson to his wife's adultery do you credit.

And your correspondents who posted comments on your earlier ventilation of this subject, who spoke of Mrs Robinson leaping into bed with another man, seem only to understand the language and mind-set of tabloid newspapers. Nobody knows, except the immediate participants, what slow, imperceptible building up of lust and temptation contributed to this sorry business.

The remarks of your critics, who accuse you of hypocrisy because you condemn homosexual practices, yet do not condemn Mrs Robinson, demonstrate either stupidity or a level of understanding appropriate to a 6th-form debate. Anybody who has read your material will be aware that you are just as quick to condemn adultery as homosexual practice, and yet would be as slow to condemn the homosexual practitioner as the adulteress.

There seems little doubt that Mrs Robinson has involved herself in corruption to a degree not immediately apparent when this story first broke.

Yet how many of us, when strongly tempted, would be able to resist with the spotless purity of a Joseph or a Jesus? Has Jesus's response to the woman taken in adultery taught people nothing about Christian sensitivity to human weakness?

And that sensitivity is not 'soft on sin', but in saying "Neither do I condemn thee," goes on to say, "Go and sin no more."

The trouble with temptation is that it is tempting. It does not show its consequences in the full glare of their wickedness, but reduces our perception of them, masked by the undoubted pleasures of the forbidden act. Things are desirable though they ought not to be.

The Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said that the devil has two lenses that he holds over sin: before it is committed, he has a lens that makes it appear much smaller than it is. Afterwards, his other lens makes sin appear insuperably unforgiveable, leading to despair and destruction. Let's try to make sure we do not participate in the devil's work.

8 January 2010 at 17:32  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Most admirable your grace that you return to a post that was , through no fault of your own, missing some vital information .

to donate someone 50k and then take 5k out it yourself whiffs very much for an mp , however when your the leaders wife with a youthfull affair to boot, he paerhaps may feel a little embarrassed , for what though , his marriage or that he didnt know where 5k of the households income came from .

8 January 2010 at 17:46  
Anonymous oiznop said...

“Peter, it profits a man nothing to give his wife for the whole world... but for Northern Ireland?”

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Email it to Peter Robinson - get it in all the NI papers. If Robinson doesn't resign, it'll be a damning Richard Rich moment.

8 January 2010 at 17:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the risky and delicately balanced event of a hung parliament, I reckon, the most influential party will be the DUP who actually sat on the Labour benches in the early years of the first Blair government, so maybe all this gut churning forgiveness is not so waxy after all. I think we really should all grow up and graduate from the sixth form and join anabaptist church.

8 January 2010 at 18:17  
Anonymous vomit said...

So his wife was a complete slut and he has forgiven her on a grand scale. What has this to do with anything? I don't exactly know what you are attempting to spin this into but it wont survive the first wash.

8 January 2010 at 18:25  
Anonymous Bob Doney said...

Just why, do we suppose, did the two property developers chip in for 50 bigguns?

8 January 2010 at 19:02  
OpenID autonomousmind said...

There could be more to the Robinsons' marriage than meets the eye. This puts a different complexion on things -
Peter Robinson is finished

8 January 2010 at 19:27  
Blogger indigomyth said...

//And he must forgive her 70x7 times should such a further chronic series of calamities befall their partnership. //

Okay, 70 X 7 = 490

50,000 - 490 = 49,510

Well, that is good then, Pete can forgive his wife 490 times for the first £490 she stole. And can utterly condemn her for the other 49,510 times she stole a pound. Brilliant!

Hell, if we construe stealing a penny as requiring one act of forgiveness, then Pete can condemn Iris four million nine hundred and fifty one thousand times.

Or, are you suggesting that One act of forgiveness = £102.04.

8 January 2010 at 19:38  
Blogger The Lakelander said...

Compare and contrast...

How the popular press reacts to an affair between a 59 year old woman and a 19 year old man (shock, disgust, horror, the old slut etc)


A 73 year old man having a string of affairs with teenage prostitutes (attaboy Silvio, you old rascal!)

8 January 2010 at 19:49  
Blogger Christian Carving said...


8 January 2010 at 22:35  
Anonymous Philip said...

Compare & contrast the BBC's 'front-page' treatment and pursuit of Mr and Mrs Robinson’s sins, while Harriet Harman's conviction of breaking the law is missed. Yes, Mr Robinson is NI First Minister and there may be implications for the NI process, but Harman is, um, Deputy PM. How the BBC and the rest of the lib/left must hate the Robinsons for their conservative/traditionalist views. Harman's anti-Christian anti-family agenda must be much more the BBC’s and lib/left’s cup of tea.

Even Christians who refuse to compromise Christian truth when that's unpopular with some, can fall. Christians, although they know something of the life-changing power of God within them to sustain them in times of trial and temptation, are still human.

On the matter of Mrs Robinson's adultery, that she admitted her sin and repented, and the fruits of that repentence are seen in her wanting to get her marriage mended, and that Mr Robinson forgives rather than running to divorce as all too often happens these days - are surely evidence of their Christian faith. It's often how a person responds to personal failings and sin - i.e. admitting it and putting things right - that marks a Christian difference, as much as not sinning and failing as often.

8 January 2010 at 23:04  
Anonymous no nonny said...

Well, OK then. Maybe the pretty face had a bit of a lift to help it.

The May-December aspect opens another perspective on the situation, and so does the 'money' link. I now have to wonder why a boy of that age needs so much cash!

I wonder if the scandal-hounds will follow his general fortunes over the years, from now on. I wonder, overall, how much all this will affect the rest of his life; he's not a girl, after all, so he'll probably be all right.

One way and another, I still think we should leave them all to sort it out quietly, especially if they resign.

Still, though, I think it's probably worth asking whether any of the 'governing classes,' or their critics, could withstand similar scrutiny. I suspect none of them could - so it's probably unfair of us sacrifice only those they choose.

9 January 2010 at 01:12  
Blogger Jomo said...

"Peter Robinson is a king in Northern Ireland, put there by God to rule with justice and righteousness."

O come on Cranmer, he has played the Orange Card all his political life and made a fortune out of the "troubles". Like his mentor he has used his talents to undermine the moderates in NI and left the gangsters and crooks in charge.

The other side of the sectarian coin and more like Gerry and Martin than you would like to admit.

You should refer to Max Weber on the dangers of mixing politics and morality.

9 January 2010 at 10:00  
Blogger Jess The Dog said...

She couldn't resist the temptations offered by her position and her relationships. She should have said "no" very loudly - like her husband's inimicable predecessor.

I have some knowledge of what is often referred to as the "Ballymena Bible Belt" and the Unionist community. I suspect that compromising relationships between developers and politicians are sadly common - the blighted landscape is testament to that. Also, the people are devout and moralistic in public but relish a good gossip and sexual scandal (I'm sure there will be a few aging ladies thinking "if only..."). There's also the tribal element - if the Robinsons are being criticised by Nationalist/Republican politicians and commentators then there will be a backlash. Many Unionists are even quite decent people as well, despite this unpalatable example! So I think the community will probably forgive the pair of them, especially if Peter Robinson backs his wife. He will probably be safe as MLA (not First Minister) but Mrs Robinson's position is clearly untenable.

9 January 2010 at 11:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YG, this posting is breathtakingly biblical and utterly brilliant.

9 January 2010 at 11:16  
Anonymous Hijab said...

Oh come on! The women had sex with someone who was 40 years younger than she was- which is equally wrong in her own world view as gays. Clearly this women says one thing and does another? Also there is the alleged finanical scandal. Perhaps the best course of action is for Peter Robinson to resign as first minister so he can rebuild his marriage. That would be the best outcome for them.

9 January 2010 at 17:51  
Anonymous UK Fred said...

There are several issues all wound up together here.

The easiest to disentangle is the marriage relationship between Peter and Iris Robinson. Peter Robinson is no different in many respects from other husbands whose wives have strayed and he has decided to try to save his marriage. This is surely a typically Christian response to such a situation, an Old Testament response if one looks at Hosea.

Mr. Robinson then has to look at his own political position and determine what is his next step.

Mrs. Robinson has decided to step down from her political duties and, given what has come out, that is probably the correct decision.

There is little difference between the financial aspects of this story and the position of Peter Mandelson at his first resignation.

In all of this, they both need our prayers for all aspects of their lives. I hope that all those posting on this site will pray rather than gloat.

9 January 2010 at 21:32  
Blogger OldSlaughter said...

Listening to her quote Leviticus about homosexuality whilst learning of her apparent theft and undoubted infidelity does more damage to the status of religion as anything.

Religion should be a long way from politics for its own sake.

There is little as ugly as hypocrisy. It is so often at its thickest from those professing a 'faith'.

10 January 2010 at 00:18  
Anonymous len said...

Self righteousness is hypocrisy and it is not exclusive to Christians as evidenced here.
There is only one righteous which is God Himself and He alone is judge of all. Gods verdict on sin ( and Hypocrisy) are quite plain for all to see in His word.
To quote Gods word is to be in agreement with the divine order.

10 January 2010 at 11:37  
Blogger Red Maria said...

It is further alleged that Peter Robinson failed to properly report these improprieties

Now look 'ere me lord, this is just NOT on.

We're all shocked by the Iris and Peter saga but it is NO excuse for you to split your infinitives.

11 January 2010 at 10:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sad that we have to resort to tabloids, blogs, tweeter to revel in the Iris Robinson affair. She sinned and big time and yet we are enjoying every minute of it. I genuinely feel sorry for her now as she must be feeling so sick of all her escapades and the outcome of this was more than she bargained for. Her hubby is now facing a possibility of standing down and certainly being pushed by fellow MP's and constituents as well. I'm sure if Iris had of known the far reaching consequences of her sinning, Kirk would never have featured in her life let alone £50K.
Remember she may be the older person in that relationship, but Kirk is not innocent if one believes the tabloids as she is not the first older woman.
Lets leave the Robinson family to lick their wounds and come to terms with their marriage and let Stormont be sorted before we all go back to the horrors of what we have come through. If he stands down and it comes elections we may well have the TUV standing in and things will definately go back to bombing, shooting etc. as they will not tolerate Sinn Fein. The DUP have now lost even more voters over this latest revelation.

11 January 2010 at 11:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace,

No offence. That was a hard read. A clear lack of detailed knowledge would be clearly apparent to those of us from NI!

13 January 2010 at 01:51  

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