Belfast Telegraph

DUP’s anti-gay outbursts to take centre stage in composer’s new opera

By Ivan Little

First it was Iris Robinson the politician. Then it was Iris Robinson and the toyboy. Now Belfast is to see Iris Robinson the opera.

For the disgraced former DUP MP's controversial attack on homosexuality, which she branded an "abomination", is being turned into a stage show.

And the anti-gay utterances of other DUP politicians including Ian Paisley are also featuring in the opera, which has been written by renowned Northern Ireland's composer Conor Mitchell (below), who is himself gay.

The Lurgan-born writer is calling his opera Abomination: The DUP In Concert, and it will be presented at the Lyric Theatre to bring the curtain down on the city's Outburst Queer Arts Festival later this month.

Most of the musical pieces presented by Mitchell's Belfast Ensemble will be based on interviews given by Peter Robinson's wife to the Nolan Show on Radio Ulster in 2008.

Her outbursts sparked fury, especially as they came shortly after a physical assault on a gay man here.

She condemned the attack, but said that homosexuality made her feel "sick and nauseous".

The former Strangford MP caused even more offence after she claimed that gays could be "cured".

She said one of her health advisers was working with a number of homosexuals who were trying to become straight.

She added: "I have a lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices, trying to turn homosexuals away from what they are engaged in.

"I am happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman."

Mrs Robinson defended her claims, and later expanded on her views in Parliament.

Speaking in a committee session on the risk assessment and management of sex offenders, she said: "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children."

Furious gay rights groups reported Mrs Robinson to the PSNI.

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

And two years later it emerged that she had been having an affair with 19-year-old restaurant owner Kirk McCambley.

Mitchell says he has put Mrs Robinson's words on the Nolan Show to music.

He added: "I don't want to be accused of putting words into her mouth. I want to take the words she used and muse on them musically and make a beautiful piece of music.

"They will be beautifully sung and I'm thinking about adding a religious choral work under the performances."

The entire text of the interviews will be projected against the opera singers after Mitchell obtained a tape of the interviews. "I want the audience to muse over words like 'abomination', 'child abuser' and 'repugnant'. I want to show how music can reflect the horror of those words."

Mitchell is going to deliver an official invitation to attend the opera to DUP headquarters in east Belfast. But it is unlikely that it or Mrs Robinson will be sending affirmative replies.

"This isn't an exercise in DUP-bashing," Mitchell added.

"After all, it was the DUP who put the words out there.

"I think it's a very dangerous time. We are still very different in this part of the world from what is happening in the UK and in the South.

"We don't have same-sex marriage and these people feel they can say these things in the public domain.

"So I think it's right to discuss what the DUP are saying about me, especially when they are in Government with Theresa May. If I said the things about the DUP that they say about me, I would end up in court."

Acclaimed Canadian soprano Rebecca Caine - the first Cosette in the musical Les Miserables - is flying into Belfast to play the part of Iris Robinson.

Mitchell says other DUP "incendiary" sound-bites about gays will be interspersed with Mrs Robinson's words during the opera. Likely to feature, he says, are Paisley's comments that he was "pretty repulsed" by homosexuality and lesbianism.

"That doesn't mean to say that I hate them," the MP added. "I mean, I hate what they do."

Mitchell says he also has in mind to include in the opera the 2005 claims by former DUP mayor of Ballymena Maurice Mills that Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,300 people, was sent to New Orleans to punish homosexuals after a gay Mardi Gras.

Abomination will be performed in Belfast on Saturday, November 17.

Belfast Telegraph

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