Peter Robinson on forgiveness
Politics is a profession which is fraught with personal pressures: it is no wonder that family life suffers and marriages break up. The revelation that Iris Robinson, wife of DUP leader Peter Robinson, had an affair is heartbreaking on so many levels. But Peter Robinson's statement today is profoundly moving and so utterly Christian:
You will appreciate how devastated I have been about what you have learned from Iris. This has been the most difficult period of my life and I have been deeply hurt by what has happened. I feel the pain of it every day.
The job we do as politicians places enormous strain on all of us and at times of heavy criticism and tough decisions it is especially so. I understand that. I also understand that in keeping a public profile, a politician internalises the stress. It is a sign of weakness to admit to pressure and anxiety. We are each made differently and some of us are more capable than others of weathering these storms in our lives.
My first knowledge of Iris's inappropriate relationship came about midnight on March 1 last year - the night she tried to take her own life. Each single morning since then, I have asked for the strength to carry this burden.
My immediate impulse was to walk away from my marriage. I felt betrayed after almost 40 years of being happily and closely bonded together. The circumstances I face, however, caused me to take a different course. Iris, racked by guilt and sorrow, had attempted to take her own life and would certainly have been less likely to recover if I had left. Over time and on calmer reflection, I set her inappropriate behaviour against 40 years of bringing up our children - often alone.
Forty years of selflessly giving me the space to pursue my beliefs; of facing public pressure for the stand I was taking and having to live with the threats and dangers my position visited upon my family. Those were forty years during which she supported me more than any person could reasonably have been expected to. Forty years where we walked the valley basin as well as the mountain paths - but most of all - 40 years during which we shared a strong, loving, relationship.
I determined that I could not walk away without making a genuine effort to see if my marriage could be saved. That is the road I am on. It is a road without guarantees but not without hope.
I love my wife. I have always been faithful to her. In a spirit of humility and repentance, Iris sought my forgiveness, she took responsibility upon herself alone for her actions and I have forgiven her. More important, I know that she has sought and received God's forgiveness.
I only ask if people feel they must judge her, that they find within themselves, as I have done, the gift of doing so with mercy and compassion.
It is heartbreaking that all the good work she has done for so many, over decades, will be overshadowed by what she has outlined today.
I accept that the press have a job to do and they must be free to do it. There will, no doubt, be those who will want to dredge up every lurid detail. They will get no help from me.
I want to assure the wider community that I have at all times sought to carry out my public duties diligently, and I will continue to discharge those responsibilities without allowing, as far as lies within me, my personal hurt to limit my endeavours.
This is a very painful time for my family, and I ask that the media respect our personal privacy while together, we seek to rebuild our lives.
I do not want to return to this subject. I am determined to try and put this issue behind me.
It is my intention to be at my desk tomorrow morning to continue the work the people of Northern Ireland have entrusted to me. I will be meeting with Martin McGuinness to discuss how we might make real progress. I want 2010 to a better year for us all.
The sadness is that Iris Robinson has made so many enemies in a certain section of the community that there will be much prancing in the streets and the shrillest squeals of glee at this sad news. But the Robinson family need our prayers and compassion, not condemnation. And we are exhorted to pray for all those in authority, whether or not we agree with their politics, religion, morality or worldview, and irrespective of their personal failings and character flaws.