I am always of the view that if politicians screw around outside their marriage, so be it. It isn't normally relevant to their role as politicians, and shouldn't be regarded as any more heinous than any of the numerous other things that imperfect human beings do.
I also think that any politician who has cast judgement upon the sex lives of other people has surrendered the right to privacy in their private life.
So there is a large dollop of schadenfreude hovering over the revelations about Iris Robinson, considering her views in the past, in particular on homosexuality, but also on adultery.
There is a little part of me that is hesitant to wade into this: I am pretty damn certain that if it had been Peter Robinson having an affair with a teenage woman, there would have been less scurrilous sniggering. If women in private life are judged more harshly than men, then this goes with spades for women in public life*.
The 'Mental Health' card has been played, and it's wise not to wade into that minefield. For example, there was a ridiculous slur campaign a few months ago that 'insinuated' that the wifey of Oik Osborne has mental health issues. I believe that Oik's wife - who seems to stay well out of visible politics - is not a legitimate target, regardless of the incompetence and arrogance of Oik himself. I also believe that to using someone's illness, whatever the nature and cause, as grounds for attack is neanderthal.
For all I know, Iris Robinson may have a history of depression. It's not improbable - isn't 20% of the population at any time; also, with a husband away from home for long stretches, while she's stuck in some dreary backwater bringing up the children, and her being all into religion and that, it's almost a classic textbook case.
That having been said, it's almost like now we are supposed to be all sympathetic and understanding of mental ill health, it's become a convenient excuse.
During the Expenses Scandal, there were reports of MPs feeling suicidal. I can't really feel sorry for them, even though I (probably less than many people) know too well how awful it feels when the bills and debts are piling up and you can't see a way of settling them. Doing something wrong, and being found out, is never a good feeling. So I shall wade into that area!
It always makes me feel good when I see some self-righteous religious nutter - and the DUP epitomises religious nuttery - being hoist by their own petard.
It's easy when you have the nice life, the uncomplicated marriage where the man is successful in his career to be all smug and idealistic. I guess we all have some ideal of how life should be lived, but most of us acquire, from experience and observation, the wisdom that rarely do lives fall into the category of ideal. I suppose the religious nutters would condemn me for having an 'anything goes' mentality, and, actually, yes, I do more or less (with the usual caveat of consenting adults).
We are also the products of our society. Among my friends and peer group, there is a general acceptance that people's lives are messy. That isn't to say that there is endorsement of the messes that people make; there is also an absence of condemnation, because we all do stupid things.
I don't just mean sexually. Many of us have done messy things with career, finance, family/friendships and so on. Because we are human, we can't see into the future and know the consequences, because we are weak and give into temptation, because not having the affair would cause us to feel so miserable. And so on.
I guess that in the society they live, the knowledge of the wife having an affair, the husband being a cuckold, is hard to bear. Perhaps in other circles, it's one of those things that acknowledged but deemed diplomatic not to discuss at dinner parties. I wonder how much her contemplation of suicide was due to the knowledge that her public reputation would be ruined for ever. I have to say that as an MP she had barely scraped my radar at all. I remembering noticing that his wife had been elected, a rare woman from Northern Ireland, but I assume that she is a big cheese that matters in Northern Ireland.
I haven't even mentioned the financial impropriety which is, actually, the nub of the matter. No doubt some religious nutters would use this as proof that nothing good ever comes of extra-marital flings. They would say - perhaps with justification - that Iris Robinson wouldn't have made this misjudgement if she hadn't been blinded by the euphoria of a fling. But I would respond that plenty of people have shown themselves to be venal and corrupt without sex being the motivation.
I would hope that some of these born-agains and rigid fundamentalists would use this incident to pause and reflect, and remember that we are all human, that human beings have human instincts, and that, often, to deny those instincts is to deny our essential humanity. Most of us try to muddle through, generally trying to avoid harm to those who haven't harmed us, and we all behave in ways that seem irrational to others.Creating an ideal and condemning those who fail to meet it makes all our lives more difficult. Ironically, it hits hardest those who have created and maintained the ideal, in their smugness, absolute conviction, and sheer stupidity, they don't realise that one day they will be killed by the sword they have yielded.
* Women politicians are criticised far more frequently for their appearance; my observation is that there are far more casual comments accusing women ministers eg of being 'annoying' or 'patronising' or 'in it for themselves' than of men; and the personal, domestic, family etc arrangements of female politicians are scrutinised more thoroughly than men. In the Great Expenses Scandal, the ghastly Julie Kirkbride was subject to far more (justified) criticism than her odious husband, who was complicit and equally guilty. (as an example)