Iris Robinson, the DUP MP whose husband Peter is party leader and First Minister, has announced she is withdrawing from public life as a result of mental illness.
Mrs Robinson had not taken part in politics full-time for several months and she admitted the stresses of being a public representative had taken their toll on her health.
In a surprise announcement before the New Year, she said her poor health and serious bouts of depression had forced her to reassess her commitment to public representation. The statement added that she had considered her decision over the Christmas break.
“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.
“The stress and strain of public life comes at a cost and my health has suffered,” she said. “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.
“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.”
She sparked outrage last year after she described homosexuality as an “abomination” and invited gay people to seek psychiatric counselling.
The Strangford MP’s remarks were investigated by police but no charges were ever brought.
She caused further controversy when she equated homosexuality with child abuse during a committee meeting of the Westminster parliament in June last year.
Mrs Robinson and her husband were criticised for employing two of their children and making claims for thousands of pounds in expenses.
Their combined salaries and expenses of more than half a million pounds a year earned them the unflattering nickname ‘Swish Family Robinson’.
Her resignation leaves the door open for a new DUP assembly member to be co-opted into her Strangford seat. The party will also heve to put up a strong contender for the Westminster parliament seat at the forthcoming British general election.