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    Saving Ulster from sodomy and hysteria: sexual and political performance in Northern Ireland

    Walsh, Fintan (2013) Saving Ulster from sodomy and hysteria: sexual and political performance in Northern Ireland. Contemporary Theatre Review 23 (3), pp. 291-301. ISSN 1048-6801.

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    On 6 June 2008, Iris Robinson – then DUP MP and MLA for Strangford – responded to the homophobic assault of a local man on Stephen Nolan's BBC Radio Ulster show. She claimed she believed homosexuality was an ‘abomination’, and that it made her feel ‘sick’ and ‘nauseous’. She offered to refer homosexuals to a psychiatrist she knew who was practising a form of reparative therapy gaining popularity at the time. Shortly after, the politician addressed a Commons debate on sex offenders, conflating homosexuality with child abuse. While the DUP's condemnatory stance on homosexuality has always been public, on this occasion heated debates, public protest, political and artistic responses followed. This article seeks to explore some of these events, tracing a connection between reactions to Iris's comments about homosexuality and the subsequent exposure of her extra-marital affair, including accusations of money laundering, which combined to pressure the Assembly to crisis. Focusing on the operation of gender and sexual dynamics within a variety of public, cultural performances (on streets and across the media), I argue that an intimate link between the performative life of the (male) sodomite and the (female) hysteric can be observed during this time, in a manner that reveals the centrality of gender and sexual power dynamics to the maintenance of social and political stability in the North. In addition, the article strives to examine the connection between these cultural events and their strategic treatment within more formal theatre and performance practices and settings.

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