The Robinson family business

At last the Robinsons. We know the big picture but there are a couple of embarrassing details. Peter and Iris Robinson who have always spend most of their time in Northern Ireland are a high maintenance couple. Along with two children, they resemble a family business, an SME ( a small or medium enterprise).

Mr Robinson, the MP for East Belfast who has also been the First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly since June last year, and his wife, the MP for Strangford, received a total of £571,939 in 2007-08 in salaries and expenses from jobs in Westminster and Northern Ireland.

Mostly, this is not news, apart from the odd juicy detail of the food bills and the uniform submission of claims. But we mustn’t force the business parallels too far; Peter and Iris wife are separately elected MPs and MLAs. They got there than by merit and public support, though Peter’s reputation no doubt helped Iris’s career after she had supported him loyally down the years behind the scenes. But the temptation to create a Robinson dynasty should be resisted.

Behind the costs are the issues of double jobbing and the family dynasties. I’m in a minority in supporting some dual membership of the Commons and the devolved assemblies to help build up a small devolution caucus at Westminster. But the parties should frown on family dynasties. What is there about DUP politicians in particular that needs family members to feel secure? Given the pressure on the Paisleys father and son, the Robinsons, Dodds and other juniors should resist the temptation to leave the back office. If not, party selection and wider public opinion should make it doubly difficult for them to enter the public arena.
Daily Telegraph extract

As well as their MPs salaries, they each receive a separate salary for sitting in Stormont. Mr Robinson is paid £71,434 as First Minister and £43,101 for being an assembly member. He employs his daughter Rebekah as his office manager and son Gareth as his parliamentary assistant. Both are listed with their parents on the electoral roll at their flat. Mr Robinson, who has been an MP since 1979, took out a Northern Bank loan to buy the flat near the Thames Barrier after his wife joined him in Parliament in 2001. The couple also have homes in Belfast and Florida.

Mr Robinson, responding on behalf of himself and his wife, said the double claim for the £1,223 bill was “an innocent mistake”.

The temptation for MP couples to work the system must be even greater than the singles. The Robinsons seem to have exceeded the single additional costs allowances but do not appear to have doubled claimed for their shared flat. In the present atmosphere, for any husband and wife team to have done that could yet be curtains, so to speak

Compare the Robinsons with the previously exposed Nicholas and Ann Winterton.
Ann and Alan Keen claimed almost the full double allowances on flats 10 miles apart

Cabinet couple Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper flipped twice but have already been cleared of wrongdoing because they paid capital gains and genuinely moved their young family.

Andrew Mackay is the only MP so far to be punished for husband and wife claims.

Mr Mackay has used his second homes allowance to claim more than £1,000 a month in mortgage interest payments on their joint flat near Westminster.However, his wife Julie McBride used her additional costs allowance to claim over £900 a month on paying off the home loan for their family home near her constituency.

So difficult for family teams to manage this expenses business, isn’t it?

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    “The dog food, the manure, KitKats and the dredging of the moat have certainly kept us stunned and appalled for the past few days, but even outrages such as these do not explain the sheer………….”

    “Robinson dynasty = CJ Haughey Lite minus the island helicopter and mistresses (so far anyway)………………”

    I agree with Driftwood and Greenflag.

    The general public are way too complacent as well!

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    “I’ve read of short attention span deficit problems but I did’nt realize it was that short :(. New research is emanating that among large numbers of the school going TV viewing classes attention span is now reducing to the length of time of television advertisements in the middle of Reality TV. Apparently the kids tune out from the adverts so that they can tune in to do their ‘homework ’
    Constant repetition of this response mechanism has resulted in neurological changes to the ‘developing ’ brain ‘. Throw in excessive alcohol and tobacco fumes and you have the perfect recipe for a ‘tame ’ population . You don’t even have to put bromine in their tea to keep them subservient . Trot out some pageantry every now and then to remind them of the glorious days of Empire or how the Irish saved Europe from the dark ages through prayer and visitation, and they won’t notice who is fleecing them nor understand why.”

    I indulge myself in pints of Guinness, it’s a great drink and it’s my only weakness….but Greenflag is correct with the points he makes.

    Here are some prophetic words from a movie of the 1970’s called Network…..

  • fair_deal


    “Sorry but the old trick of “they are all as bad as each other” simply wont wash until the full facts are out”

    Day after day of allegations against members of almost every party who sit in Westminster (I think Plaid are the only ones I haven’t see something against) including their respective leaders (Brown’s cleaner, Cameron’s wisteria, Salmond and Robinson’s food bills, Clegg’s rose garden) such a conclusion is not a tangential leap regardless of the difference in types and amounts involved.

    SF are not smelling of roses why else would the feel the need to go for a full disclosure and defence today?


    I accept UKIP has its own issues but it is an advantage of them being off the general public’s radar screen most of the time most people don’t know about the first and the second has not been convicted (AFAIK). To a degree we have to be thankful it is them who look to benefit and not even worse parties.

  • fin

    fair_deal, do you really think there would have been any impact if SF hadn’t been the first party that the Telegraph ‘profiled’
    I think the public perception would have been quite different if after all the dirt on the other parties had been dished the Tele published that SF rent 2 flats and bought 2 TVs

  • Glencoppagagh

    “Glencoppagagh The rent paid on the SF flat is not disimiliar to that been paid in 2005 by Hermon so maybe there’ll be more than one unhappy landlord”
    Was Hermon renting on a new development in an unfashionable part of North London?
    I think you missed the point, anyway.

  • Greenflag

    Rory Carr

    ‘ I have cheerfully and excessively indulged in both alcohol and tobacco for half a century now and I yet to ever hear anyone suggest that somehow I was “tame”.

    Good man and may you continue in your sinful though enjoyable ways ad infinitum . BTW I was not suggesting you ‘personally’ had been ‘tamed ‘ as per manner befitting the Anglo Saxons following the Norman invasion or in the manner of the Irish following the Second Conquest 😉 Eventually the formerly tamed arise if they’re no longer inebriated but then back in those days they did’nt have to lose their focus with such trivialities as TV , good living, excess carbs and processed food not to mention the drug of choice of the day eh ? In those far off days it was customary to wash down one’s breakfast with some weak ale(lower orders ) or wine (priests , bishops and the ruling class).

    The introduction of tea and the coffee shop was apparently instrumental in ‘sobering ‘ up a significant element in the population to such an extent that it may have brought forth unwittingly as a by product what we now refer to as the ‘enlightenment ‘ ;)?

    My great grandfather who was not tame managed to make it to 99 year and 6 months having consumed alcohol as his staple food (Uncle Arthur) for his first 40 years and then one day in a blinding flash of I don’t know waht shrugged off the demon drink and replaced it with tobaccy in a pipe plus accessories i.e a spitoon under the kitchen table . His spit was long , accurate and the bowl was deep enough to prevent the spittle splashing on the polished linoleum flooring ‘

    At his funeral it was commented that had he not given up the drink at 40 he’d have made it to the 100 . At least one half of the family were somehow relieved that he did’nt make the big C for he had told all and sundry that when the cheque from Dev came he was going to send it back to the bast***d , with inappropriate verbiage scratched in the margins.

    His mother made it to 102 and apparently subsisted on porridge , gruel , pottage , dry bread in season and an apple or two every autumn supplemented by buttermilk and the occassional drop of the craythur 😉

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “SF are not smelling of roses why else would the feel the need to go for a full disclosure and defence today”

    They are the only party to have system designed to avoid the disasters encountered by the other parties of politicans lining their own pockets – the reason SF publish their details is to show how they differ from the other parties.

    This is a real positive for SF (as New Blue was brave enugh to acknowledge) they actually have a policy which the man on the Omagh Omnibus probably thinks the other troughing parties should have – it you got it flaunt it.

    PosbBoyDC and others trying to deflect the glare of public anger by saying its about leadership or everybody is doing it therefore dont ask further questions of us is simply self-serving spin.

    This is more damaging for the Tories for 3 reasons – historically because of sleaze, becuase they are higher up in the polls and have therefore further to fall than Labour and becuase of our old friend the moat – an assoication with privliege and snobbery the Tory party was trying hard (and to be fair fairly sucessfully) to rid itself of.

    This was always going to be an enjoyable election but its turning into an absolute cracker with the range of weaponru available to the combatants in the 3-sided-Unionist civil war increasing by the day. lol

  • Greenflag

    greagoir ,

    ‘I agree with Driftwood and Greenflag.’

    There are too many people agreeing with me these days 😉 I don’t know who started the rot but yer man Seymour may have set it off . It’s nearly time to dig out the ole ‘repartition ‘ war horse once more . That usually helps to restore the usual level of disagreeability :)?

    As for the general public being too complacent ?

    I agree but perhaps it’s just as well . Last thing we need on this island is for the taxpayers on both sides of the border to unite in a massive protest against their respective administrations and drag both administrations and their cronies , bankers and the CEO’s of mass media , bishops , priests and ministers through the streets of Belfast and Dublin and Cork and Limerick, bollock naked , to be first tarred and feathered and subsequently hanged from every available lampost – hoping that such an exhibition will encourage our American and British cousins to do likewise with their Madoff’s etc 😉

    It is the last thing we need ? Well isn’t it ? Or do I detect a note of enthusiasm for a people’s revolution ? Where is Wat Tyler when you need him ?

    As for this EUP election . Cast a cold eye etc!

  • fin

    Glencoppagagh, I have no idea where the SF apartment is, let me know, I live in London and I can judge what the area is like, so far the only ref to it was a solitary estate agent saying what it would rent for (no doubt sucking air through his teeth and telling you he could come around on Tuesday to look at it)in fact I’ve not seen the area mentioned anywhere, is your arguement based on a supposed conversation between a journo and a estate agent? if so goodnight.

    Silverline, Hermon repaid the money because she was caught claiming 13 months rent in a single year, not the best scam to pull.

    But still back to the facts 5 SF MPs claim for 2 TVs and renting 2 properties, is their any party out there who wouldn’t gladly swap places with them in this shocking news.

  • Rory Carr

    Fair Deal,

    There is no doubt, as you say, that UKIP benefit by being “off the public radar”, or rather their own transgressive venality being absent from public conciousness, but I cannot agree that “we have to be thankful it is them who look to benefit and not even worse parties” as I see them as no more than the “respectable” big brother of the BNP insofar as they tend to be wealthier – estate agents, property developers, dodgy solicitors, wear more expensive suits and tend to have fewer tattoos (or at least do not display them so publicly) – but they are exactly of the same racist, facistic mindset and in the ability occasioned by their wealth, precisely because of their grasping lower middle-class propensities and instincts are that little bit more dangerous and would be more than happy for the BNP boot-boys to be their SA Brownshirts until it suited them to do a repeat of the Night of the Long Knives..

  • D

    I was recently threatened with a £1000.00 fine if I didn’t sign up for the electoral register. As I am a family man with a modest income, from which I have to pay my own mortgage and purchase my own food I reluctantly gave in and signed up. Although I was forced into this course of action, I will be in a wooden box before I will ever enter a polling box again. You can drag a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I would rather have the words taken out my mouth than help elect any more MGB’s to the Westminster / Stormount / European gravy trains.

  • fair_deal


    I can see some of what you say about UKIP but not as far as you do. The BNP will probably take seats too but I think that was coming anyway as they had came close last time and have been working towards getting them every since. Events will no doubt assist them more but I think it would be wrong if they succeed to simply blame recent events alone. The mainstream hasn’t worked out how to deal with the BNP.

  • Scrappage

    Hermon repaid nearly £3,000 for improper rent claims. The Robinsons have no intention of repaying £30,000 for improper unspent food claims. So who is ethical?

    Perhaps the Fraud Squad should be asked to decide?

  • sj1

    D there are ten people still awaiting prosecution for not filling in the electoral register, the last one taken to court was fined £1. I read it in the Irish news (I think). Sounds to me like you were bullied.

  • Nate

    For those with a calculator, as the food allowance is paid on a 20 pounds per diem (Mon-Fri) rate, this means that the Robinsons each spent an average of over 30 working weeks per year in London on business. Does this sound somewhat suspicious to you as it doesn’t leave that much time for their Assembly business. Of course they couldn’t be doing Assembly business whilst in London as the MP allowances must be ‘wholly, EXCLUSIVELY and necessarily incurred’. Someone care to investigate?

  • Greenflag

    RC .

    ‘are (UKIP) that little bit more dangerous and would be more than happy for the BNP boot-boys to be their SA Brownshirts until it suited them to do a repeat of the Night of the Long Knives.. ”

    The British don’t do ‘Night of the Long Knives ‘ well not since Maggie’s time anyway ;). British Fascists have not had a real leader since Sir Oswald Mosley in the 1930’s . His rise to prominence came at a time of national crisis -high unemployment – financial uncertainty etc. Considerd a ‘traitor’ to his class he climbed to a Ministry courtesy of the British Labour Party and had a wide bunch of admirers amongst Conservatives . Names such as the ‘Mitford ‘sisters , Randolph Churchill , Mac Millan etc were prominent amongst his entourage . After his ‘new party ‘ failed ‘ it was even hoped by both major parties that he would join their ranks and perhaps even lead them .

    Back then as now the main parties did not know how to handle the rising ‘Fascists . Fortunately for British politics ‘war’ intervened and Mosley and his ‘Diana’ spent the war interned.

  • Greenflag

    Nate ,

    ‘For those with a calculator etc ‘

    Oh ye of little faith ;)?. Faith does not use calculators . If it did there would be no religion. Once you accept the premise that the Party of God in NI (The Protestant God ) is the DUP and that some of it’s members and even senior party politicians are known to babble in pentecostal tongues, and may even be prone to jerking and twitching and now possibly even twittering in simultaneous religious ecstasy – then you should not doubt their ability to pull that old heavenly magic manouvre of having the power to be in two places at the same time . This is achieved by a form of quantum politics which traces it’s roots back to biblical time when Jesus following his ‘crucifixion’ appeared to divers people in divers places . If JC could pull such a stunt then why not the Robinsons ? After all the previous DUP Ayatollah was known to have walked on water ;)?

  • Big Maggie


    “The British don’t do ‘Night of the Long Knives ’ well not since Maggie’s time anyway”

    I take issue with that slur! :^)

  • Jon

    There is no way anyone could spend £30000 on food expenses.
    How many days in London did this cover.

    I feel like saying “Thou Shalt Not Steal” but I know they will reply by saying it was not their fault.