Lets play Devil’s Advocate for Iris

Lynne Jones has raised the fact under Section 141 of the 1983 Mental Health Act any MP or MLA who is detained under the Act for a period of more than six months loses their seat.

This seems to exempt elected representatives from normal employment protections for those suffering mental health issues.

In the specific case of Iris Robinson those dealing with her case, which involves a longstanding mental health issue, seem to fall well short of obligations on employers under the Disability Discrimination Act and the release of information on her condition seems to break Data Protection legislation. See CIPD for further reading.

Of course Robinson’s case goes beyond mental health problems to claims of inappropriate behaviour and financial irregularities but if these issues are linked with her medical problems then perhaps the response should have been understanding, support, treatment and assistance in adapting her working environment to the difficulties caused by an illness? Not demonisation, ostracisation and expulsion.

Should the body politic, the media and public have shown a little more understanding to Iris, given her time and considered things in the round and possibly entirely rooted in illness?

  • Good points.

    “the release of information on her condition seems to break Data Protection legislation”

    Well her husband released the information – didn’t he? So I am not sure Data protecion legislation extends to next of kin releasing information in the case of incapacitated people does it?

    It seems that Iris has resigned voluntarily as an MP.

    The only enforced thing seems to have been her termination as a member of the DUP, which does seem to have been quite brutal.

  • Pigeon Toes

    As previously queried,who allowed such an ill woman to make that written statement?

    Does anyone have Power of Attorney over her affairs at present?

  • gmacor

    Good point Mark; especially given how understanding she was to the psychiatric problems visited on gay people.

  • Pigeon Toes

    BTW Mark clever thread title…

  • Mark McGregor


    I don’t think many other organisations would accept a resignation from someone under treatment for mental health issues and possibly acting under duress.

  • iluvni

    Will she be able to claim a blue badge now?

  • sigh

    There are two different things going on here. The first, which should be obvious to any MP with half a brain, is that Northern Ireland is not covered by he 1983 Mental Health Act, but The Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 and the second is that there has been no suggestion that Iris has been detained under the Order for treatment.

    If, as is most likely, she has been treated by a home treatment team her status has been voluntary, not detained.

  • Mark McGregor


    Well, it is obvious to anybody that clicked on the link that the 1983 Mental Health Act makes specific reference to the Assembly through an amendment. And as noted in the BBC piece it was not raised as directly related to Iris’ situation but an opportunity to discuss attitudes on elected representatives and mental illness. A theme I chose to expand on.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    How long did the DUP leave Iris to abombinate people before they realised that she was in need of cute psychiatric treatment.

    I suppose she was not actually standing out amongst DUP members/patients.

  • cut the bull

    If she is fit enough to make decisions in relation to resigning as a Councillor, MLA and MP, then surely she must be fit enough to answer questions relating to two loans of £25,000 and a council contract for the lease of the Lock Keepers Cafe.

  • Driftwood
  • wild turkey

    ‘Should the body politic, the media and public have shown a little more understanding to Iris, given her time and considered things in the round and possibly entirely rooted in illness?’

    uh, in a word, nope.

    if spotlight, and associated revelations, had never seen the light of day, and of course, if the Clan Robinson did not anticipate the shitstorm coming down the pike upon eventual revelations, does anyone really believe that Mrs Robinsion would have cited mental health issues and stood down.

    if immediately, or shortlly, after the ‘suicide’ attempt, Mrs Robinson had stood down from her positions, she might,just might, be due some understanding and consideration. This did not occur. So why, the time delay?

    Whatever allegations Mrs Robinson may formally face, can we now anticipate a defense of ‘insanity’, regardless of the duration and nature of the underlying condition(s)?

    I can think of many many people, groups of people and individuals, who have faced greater difficulties arising from mental health issues and who have received, and have been seen by the powers that be, to be far less deserving of the understanding and support that some would now argue is Mrs Robinsons due entitlement.

    Mrs Robinson should be assigned responsibility for her actions and behaviours rather than being wrapped in the cloaks of victimhood.

    What next, Iris as a feminist icon? FFS.

    i am off to listen to some Jerry Jeff Walker. Link below if anyone cares to sing along

  • Banjaxed

    On the other hand, Wild Turkey, she could always sign herself into a convent and take the vow of silence.

    Wouldn’t that be a turn-up, now? Attila the Nun….

  • cut the bull

    She could even become a reborn icon of the Gay and Lesbian community.
    If she was sick then she was sick and all that all talk on the Nolan show was, well just nonsense.

  • sigh

    Mark McGregor

    You are quite right, there is an amendment for the other assemblies, but would that amendment only apply if an MLA were detained for treatment in a mental health hospital in Great Britain?

    The amendment to the Act does not mention The Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, (does it?) so might be arguable unless she were transferred between facilities.

    Either way, it’s academic because, as you say, the question wasn’t raised “as directly related to Iris’ situation”, but it is quite a coincidence that it should have popped into someone’s head just then.

  • cut the bull

    or was it she who shouts the loudest has the most to hide

  • Driftwood

    What next, Iris as a feminist icon? FFS.

    Wild Turkey, ‘fraid so..


  • Mr. J.

    Whilst I agree that people with mental health problems in a working environment should be supported and offered understanding, there is equally a responsibility that they should not be placed in positions of power.

    If Iris had been a police officer or a member of the armed forces and had been identified as having mental health problems that could impact upon their day to day life, they would be removed from their position until the issues were dealt with.

    Similarly, Iris should be removed from her positions in Westminster and the Assembly for these reasons. If her mental health problems disrupt her judgement to the point of making the decision to take a 19 year old lover, she clearly doesn’t have the prescence of mind to serve her constituents.

    As for her removal from the DUP, admittedly this may be not be just under the Mental Health Act, but if Suzanne Breen is correct, and it can be proved that Kirk McCambley is not her only infidelity, they can remove her on the grounds of not conforming to party standards. Unless the counter claim comes back that she has been suffering mental health problems for decades.

    Which, whilst some people may have already suspected so, raises a lot of other questions.

  • OscarTheGrouch

    I wonder if we should have mandatory psychiatric checks on our MLA’s just in case, it would hopefully rule out religous crackpots, psychopaths, compulsive liars,…. mmm, there may be a flaw in this plan….

  • Jaggers

    I note the London Telegraph reports today that Mrs Robinson may be eligible for a £32k resettlement grant even though she has resigned her Westminster seat on account of her incapacity – normally a resigning MP applying for the “Chiltern Hundreds” would not receive anything.

    The Telegraph contacted the DUP and asked if Mrs Robinson would take up the ill-health grant and there has not been a reply. Presumably a positive reply would have the consequence of producing evidence of the ill-health.

    I recall the raft of medical experts appearing in our media recently with Brian Lenihan’s diagnosis of cancer. I am surprised at their absence during Mrs Robinson’s confinement. I have next-to-no medical knowledge myself but speaking to a counsellor friend, they don’t recognise the term “acute psychiatric treatment” save in a colloquial sense.

    Is the undoubted stigma surrounding mental illnesses sufficient to prevents responsible investigation and comment?

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    When the authorities catch up with me (maybe slightly before, precautionary manoeuvre) I am definitely going to go crazy.

    I would be crazy not to.

  • An Lorgain

    A Sunday world reporter and photographer were arrested earlier this week following an assault accusation, at the home of Kirk McCambley.


  • John Joe

    Iris as a feminist icon?

    You better believe it. Expect I’m a Celebrity (along with a public reconciliation with Boy George), her own chat show, maybe even some inspirational chicklit. You can laugh, but…

  • Skintown Lad

    “the response should have been understanding, support, treatment and assistance in adapting her working environment to the difficulties caused by an illness”

    I know you were trying to get a reaction here but give me strength! She was an elected representative! If her inpropriety was caused by the illness, what did you expect them to do?

    1. Keep her well clear of positions of authority
    2. Keep her well clear of positions where she may be offered *cough* bribes
    3. Make her wear chastity pants?

    Also, I don’t think she’s actually been sectioned, has she? On that basis I don’t see how you can question her decision to resign.