Northern Ireland news

Iris Robinson's anti-gay remarks turned into an opera

Former DUP MP Iris Robinson
Brendan Hughes

DISGRACED former DUP MP Iris Robinson's infamous anti-gay remarks are to form the basis of a new opera.

'Abomination – The DUP in Concert' is based on Mrs Robinson's controversial comments a decade ago when she branded homosexuality "an abomination".

Her words have been set to music by Belfast composer Conor Mitchell, and will be performed by international soprano Rebecca Caine and a chamber orchestra.

The show is also expected to feature anti-gay comments by other DUP politicians, such as those of Ian Paisley who in 2007 said he was "pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism".

The performance will be staged at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast as part of the city's Outburst Queer Arts Festival later this month.

Mrs Robinson, the wife of ex-First Minister Peter Robinson, sparked outcry over remarks including that homosexuality made her feel "sick and nauseous" and that gay people could be "cured".

At a committee session on the management of sex offenders, the former Strangford MP and MLA also said: "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children."

In December 2009 she quit politics, saying that she was suffering from a mental illness.

In January 2010 it emerged she had been having an affair with 19-year-old Kirk McCambley – and that she had obtained £50,000 from two property developers to help him secure a tender for a south Belfast café.

A Stormont report released almost five years later found that Mrs Robinson committed a "serious breach" of the assembly's code of conduct.

Organisers hope the new opera focusing on Mrs Robinson's comments will open up fresh conversations on the debate over gay rights in Northern Ireland.

Mr Mitchell said: "This is the stuff of grand opera! A tragic heroine. A clash of faith and society. It's truly, truly operatic.

"For me, the words of Iris Robinson were a wake-up call about the power of language in this country. Words matter.

'Love the sinner, hate the sin'. Hate? Sin? Sin to who? For me, this is what new music is about. It can focus on words – make them sing without making explicit comment. That's up to the audience."

'Abomination' is due to be performed in Belfast on Saturday, November 17.

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