The wife of Northern Ireland's most senior politician last night sensationally revealed that she had attempted to take her life while depressed after having an affair.
Iris Robinson, who is a Westminster MP as well as a member of the Belfast Assembly, said in a statement that she had acted "in a manner which was self-destructive and out of character" during severe bouts of depression.
Her husband, Peter Robinson, who as First Minister heads Belfast's powersharing government, made an anguished appearance on television to outline the events that have been the subject of rumour and speculation for weeks.
He said: "You will appreciate how devastated I have been. This has been the most difficult period of my life and I have been deeply hurt by what has happened. I feel the pain of it every day."
He maintained that he would not resign, and would be back at his post this morning to meet the deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.
In a statement his wife said: "I lost control of my life and did the worst thing that I have ever done. Over a year and a half ago, I was involved in a relationship. It began completely innocently when I gave support to someone following a family death.
"I encouraged friends to assist him by providing financial support for a business venture. Regrettably, the relationship later developed into a brief affair. It had no emotional or lasting meaning but my actions have devastated my life and the lives of those around me."
Mr Robinson denied that anything was out of order with the financial dealings. The Robinsons have been referred to as Northern Ireland's first political family, as a number of their children work for them.
The First Minister said his knowledge of his wife's "inappropriate relationship" came at midnight on 1 March last year, when she tried to take her own life. Mr Robinson, who can be robust in public but is often reserved personally, spoke of his reaction to the suicide attempt. "My immediate impulse was to walk away from my marriage," he said. "I felt betrayed after almost 40 years of being happily and closely bonded together. The circumstances I face, however, caused me to take a different course.
"Iris, racked by guilt and sorrow, had attempted to take her own life and would certainly have been less likely to recover if I had left. I determined that I could not walk away without making a genuine effort to see if my marriage could be saved.
"That is the road I am on. It is a road without guarantees but not without hope. I love my wife. I have always been faithful to her. In a spirit of humility and repentance, Iris sought my forgiveness."Reuse content