Sunday, 22 March 2009

Iris Robinson avoids prosecution following anti gay comments

On Friday 20 March 2009 I was informed by the Police Service of NI that "After reviewing the advice of the PPS and the material gathered during the investigation there are no reasonable grounds to believe that Mrs Robinson has committed an offence. What is at issue here is what was said, rather than by whom it was said. It is the police view that Mrs Robinson’s comments did not breach the legislation; as such she has not been interviewed regarding this matter. This investigation is now closed.".

As the first complainant against Iris Robinson MP MLA I made the complaint to test the processes, the legislation and ensure the media and the general public were aware how seriously lesbian and gay people viewed her initial comments made on Friday 6 June 2008 during The Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster.

Her initial comments referred to homosexuality as “Disgusting, loathsome, physical disgust, nauseous, shamefully wicked, vile, an abomination”. She also stated that "I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals - trying to turn away from what they are engaged in I'm happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around and become heterosexuals." 

I, along with others, again made another complaint following the Belfast Telegraph’s report which was printed after Iris Robinson made comments in a House of Commons Committee on 18 June 2008 when she stated that she felt that homosexuality was on a par with child abuse. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Iris Robinson stated “I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable. I feel totally repulsed by both”.

In the intervening period she had also stated on The Stephen Nolan Show on Thursday 17 July 2008 that “the government has the responsibility to uphold god’s law’s morally”.

Whilst I am disappointed that the Public Prosecution Service has decided not to proceed and has marked the case as closed the situation with regards to Iris Robinson proves yet again that The Public Prosecution Service urgently need to more open and accountable, especially when you consider the failure of high profile court cases such as the Northern Bank and Omagh Bombing Trials.

It also highlights the need for a more wide ranging review concerning the relationship between the legal system, the police and politicians following the numerous police investigations in Great Britain concerning MP expenses, political fundraising etc. The review should be initiated to clarify the role of the police versus politicians and whether legislation needs to be updated to deal with the matters recently raised. 

For example, the first and only successful prosecution under the legislation that would have been used against Iris Robinson was in 1984 when the late George Searight stated that Catholics who objected to the flying of the Union flag "'are just fenian scum who have been indoctrinated by the Catholic church. Taxpayers money would be better spent on an incinerator and burning the lot of them. Their priests should be thrown in and burnt as well". He was fined £100 and given a six month custodial sentence, suspended for three years.

The legislation used for the "Cash for Honours" police investigation dated back to 1889 and included the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889[26]. 

A valid case could possibly be made to the Police Ombudsman concerning the investigation (or lack thereof) but we should remember that as a result of Iris Robinson’s disgraceful remarks a lot more people have came forward to support lesbian, gay and bisexual people, most notably Ulster Unionist MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister who attended Belfast Pride last year for the first time, a real silver lining in the Iris Robinson cloud that came over Northern Ireland during June and July 2008.

Sunday 22 March 2009