Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

DUP First Minister's wife Iris Robinson quits politics

Iris Robinson
Iris Robinson annouces that she will quit politics

The Strangford DUP MP, Iris Robinson, is quitting politics after admitting she is battling mental illness.

Mrs Robinson, the wife of NI First Minister Peter Robinson, said she was leaving because of an ongoing battle with severe depression.

"The stress and strain of public life comes at a cost and my health has suffered," she said.

Mrs Robinson provoked outrage in the gay community last year when she said homosexuality was "an abomination".

Earlier this year, she spent several months out of the public eye. As well as a series of operations, she said she had been battling severe depression which she described as "a personality changing illness".

Her decision to leave office followed talks with her husband over Christmas.

"As many people will be aware, I have recently tried to return to the full-time work of representing my constituents following my latest period of illness," she said.

"Over the years, I have undergone a long series of operations and though I have never talked about it publicly, I have, against this background, also battled against serious bouts of depression," she said.

"Only those who have faced similar challenges in life will know the ordeal faced by those who are profoundly depressed and the distress caused to those around them as they grapple with personality changing illness.

"One in four of the population struggle with mental illnesses at one level or another yet few talk about it openly. When I am better able to do so, I want to say more about this period of my life."

Mrs Robinson, 60, a mother of three, has been an MP since 2001. Her husband has represented east Belfast since 1979.

She will not contest the next Westminster election and is expected to hand over her Stormont seat to a party colleague.

'Abomination'

Iris Robinson is the former chairperson of the health committee at the Northern Ireland Assembly and provoked outrage within the gay community by claiming homosexuality was "an abomination" and that, with help, gay people could be "turned around".

Those comments and her clashes with Health Minister Michael McGimpsey made her appear, at times, a controversial figure at Stormont.

However, a series of local politicians have expressed sympathy with the Strangford MP, paying tribute to her constituency work and hoping she will make a full recovery.

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward said she was an extremely assiduous and dedicated MP.

"Iris' decision to share with the public her reasons for standing down will also help many other people and their families who live with the challenge and problems of coping with depression," he said.

Mrs Robinson's fellow Strangford DUP assembly members paid tribute to her leadership, hard work and dedication.

Danny Kennedy, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionists, sent good wishes for Mrs Robinson's recovery.

Alliance leader David Ford said the decision to leave must have been very difficult and wished her a full recovery.



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