Iain Dale, the gay Tory blogger, has expressed sympathy for Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson, who announced this week she was standing down.

Robinson, a Democratic Unionist, became a figure of hate among gay people for a number of homophobic comments but said on Monday that ill mental health meant she could not continue in her role.

Last year, she said that homosexuality was “comparable” to paedophilia and was a mental illness that could be “cured”.

Dale, who attacked her for her “violent” expression of her beliefs, said it was a “great shame” that depression had forced her to leave politics.

He wrote on his blog: “I have had my differences with Iris Robinson. But it is a great shame that chronic depression has forced her to announce she will be standing down from parliament at the next election.

“I count myself very lucky that no matter how bad things have ever got for me, I have never suffered from depression myself, and perhaps it is difficult therefore to empathise properly with people who do, but knowing several people who do have bouts of depression from time to time, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who has suffered from depression, also wished her well.

He wrote: “If my own experience is anything to go she will feel better for being open, and she will perhaps be surprised by the warmth of people towards her admission. There are so many people out there with mental health problems, yet so few who speak openly about them.”

He added that he hoped she would get involved with the Time to Change campaign, which seeks to break down stigma around mental illness.

Robinson said in her statement: “The stress and strain of public life comes at a cost and my health has suffered.

“Regrettably, I have concluded, after considering the matter over Christmas and discussing it with Peter, who has always been most supportive and caring, that I can no longer maintain the high standard of service I require of myself, meet the demands of office and cope with the pressures of public life, without my health deteriorating further.”