And now the fall-out

How remarkable that the leaders of both Northern Ireland’s two main deeply divided parties have been engulfed in personal scandals they’ve been concealing for some time. It would hard to make up more dramatic evidence of how mores and lifestyles in Northern Ireland have changed even in the puritan parties.

Adultery in the DUP! Confessions of dire perversion in Sinn Fein! To be fair – and what else can we be? – and to deploy natural human sympathy, the Adams and Robinson scandals are very different and neither is of each man’s making. But might hubris have played some part in each case?

The Robinsons, once an unremarkable-looking hard-working pair, acquired an aura of sleek high maintenance as they slowly ascended the political ladder and actually began to look younger as they biologically aged. Gerry Adams, for all his studied humility and sentimentality for his working people, has been a man for whom the normal rules haven’t applied for as long as the Robinsons have been married.

And the political fall-out? Containable for Adams, it seems. On the big picture of the devolution of justice and policing and the supposed threat to the Assembly, the human dynamic of the Robinson revelations must surely buy some time for a settlement.

Any Saturday deadline however faint before today, has surely receded further now. Internally in the DUP, judging from the great warmth of Nigel Dodd’s statement of support, Robinson is safe. Good . This shows a human decency the DUP have not always extended to others in the past.

The experience offers conclusive proof to the DUP that family dynasties are far from an unmixed blessing; instead of sharing the burden, they can spread the damage. Why did Peter Robinson choose today to speak out?

Was it anything to do with pressure from the BBC and further disclosures? A shadow still hangs over the couple – Iris’s admission of a financial as well as a personal relationship that according to alleged BBC evidence, may be improper.

Note how carefully Peter replied to that question. He said “I” throughout. and he wasn’t asked the obvious supplementary.

He did not answer for Iris, who failed to explain the financial relationship in her own statement.

During his interview Mr Robinson was also asked if his financial affairs were under investigation.
In reply he said he had always acted “in the most professional and ethical way.”
He also confirmed he had received a letter from the BBC which he said contained no allegations against him but “asked questions which are easily answered.”

The BBC Spotlight programme has confirmed it has been investigating matters involving Iris Robinson for some time. In a statement the BBC added that allegations have been put to the Robinsons and their response is awaited.

Call me old fashioned but listening to the gripping exchanges between the First Minister and the correspondents, I was irritated by how they talked about “Peter” this and “Peter” that. Granted they seemed stunned, sitting before a man in an otherwise cosy domestic setting, by the starkest display of public emotion unconnected with terrorism I can recall. But their tone was inappropriate.

Ours is a tiny culchie world and we all know each other all too well. But if ever there was an ideal time for the media to observe the correct distance between themselves and the subject, this was it.

They sounded like a bunch of guys consoling a mate in the pub. This over-relaxed style may draw politicians and the media closer together in the little Stormont village but it distances them both from the public they serve.

,

  • Rory Carr

    The sentiments of your final paragraph deploring the over-familiarity employed by the journalists towards the First Minister of the jurisdiction are quite apposite and have nothing to do with or at least should not be dictated by, fashion.

    By referring constantly to Mr Robinson as “Peter” I felt that Mark Davenport and his colleague were, like Mrs Robinson, indulging in “inappropriate behaviour” though not necessarily of the same manner of impropriety.

    Their approach to this carefully crafted stage show seemed all too designed to elicit sympathy for Robinson as a wounded human soul manfully coming to terms with the tragedies visited upon him. Perhaps it was necessary for them to agree some such approach in order to obtain the interview and they felt it was worth adopting their preliminary demeanour of what I can only describe as “matey deference” in order to have the opportunity to grill him after on the question of the dosh.

    If that was their intention they sure blew it and one was left wishing that it was instead someone with the probing skills of Mrs Merton who had the opportunity to pose the questions (“Tell us now, Debbie McGee, what was it that first attracted you to millionaire, Paul Daniels?”)

  • wild turkey

    ‘This shows a human decency the DUP have not always extended to others in the past. ‘

    and to travel from the personal to the political, i will be interested to see how the DUP now practices empathy for those outside its narrow tent.

    on a broader and simpler note. Mr Walker, your post acknowledges and draws together a number of different and conflicting strands of this ongoing saga into something that is, well uh, ‘understandable’

    for that, you should be commended. keep up the good work.

    ps. i do not read the ‘National Enquirer’ at supermarket checkouts back home so i will have nothing to further to say about peter and iris… well save this.

    iris always reminded of a low rent version of Sarah Palin. will the Rev Willy McCrea go to Nashville and give us a tune?

  • Henry94

    will the Rev Willy McCrea go to Nashville and give us a tune?

    Or take one

  • The Raven

    “By referring constantly to Mr Robinson as “Peter” I felt that Mark Davenport and his colleague were, like Mrs Robinson, indulging in “inappropriate behaviour” though not necessarily of the same manner of impropriety.”

    Rory, might it just be the sucker punch, albeit delayed between now and when *that* Spotlight is aired….?

  • Rory Carr

    I should add that there was some clever editing involved that spoke more than words. Reprising on Robinson’s pointing to his ability to withstand the emotional turmoil of his wife’s confession of “inappropriate behaviour” (nothing so dire as pissing in the Holy water font I trust) when he alleged that a mere twelve hours after receiving the terrible news of his wife’s attempted suicide and her then confession to an adulterous affair in March last year he had performed most ably at First Minister’s question time. And, according to the clip of that question time then replayed, he performed very well indeed, looking in the peak of health, not in the least drawn or haggard with a full bloom of health and vigour upon him, he laughed and joked with fellow MLA’s about the strange situation he found himself in – he, a member for East Belfast answering questions on agriculture! (God, the fun they had back in them days.)

    One almost, if one were uncharitable, might have got the impression that his wife’s suicide attempt and her subsequent shattering confession of sexual betrayal had hardly touched the man. Why, it was almost as if he could never have received such news at all or else he was a man of stone. But we mustn’t be uncharitable. Mr Robinson clearly is not a man of stone. He bleeds like the rest of mankind and is capable of weeping tears of grief over any painful loss.

    Which begs the question: How much money did they “lose”?

  • wild turkey

    Why, it was almost as if he could never have received such news at all or else he was a man of stone. But we mustn’t be uncharitable. Mr Robinson clearly is not a man of stone. He bleeds like the rest of mankind and is capable of weeping tears of grief over any painful loss.

    Which begs the question: How much money did they “lose”?

    Rory, you make your points well. but take the longer view.

    in the forthcoming Tory UK gov’t Peter and Iris will be ‘elevated’ to the House of Lords..

    then have tea with Eileen. she may, or may not, show them the ropes. assuming they are left to hang…

    Peter will be given the task of negotiating the final deal with Icebank whilst Iris is appointed as the first ‘British’ ambassador to the Bermuda Triangle.

    Family values and patriotism. for the wounded, what a refuge!

  • The Raven

    I trust that’s a bit of malicious editing at the end of her Wikipedia piece…

  • The Raven

    Oh it’s ok…it’s gone again. Made me larf…

  • seamus friel

    Follow the money! Follow the money! The so called adultery is merely a red herring sideshow to deflect from what Spotlight will reveal about their financial dealings. Why do you think he suddenly announced this now and suddenly was so emotional about it after 9 months. Could a man who was as devastated and broken as Peter seemed to be today have carried out the duties of first Minister for 9 months. I don’t believe so. An oscar is due for today’s role as wounded husband. Who really cares among the public if she had an affair. It is the finances which will be the most important factor here. They both know this. Has Peter been a millionaire for 15 or 20 years? If he has been very wealthy for that long where did his wealth come from? This story has a long way to run.

  • Macanna

    Anyone still wondering why the dup passed up on the chance to get a few digs in at GA lately.I wonder though how she got confirmation of forgivness from God. Has she got a personal hotline?

  • pinni

    The knives are out and the vultures are circling. Is Mick Fealty psychic, or what?

  • Los Lobos

    Damm, is there no depth to which the DUP will plummett? The very day that should have belonged to the UDA after years upon years of dealing, has been snached from under their noses in one fell swoop. How sick is Jackie Mc Donald now as he fades from the media frenzy he had prepared for? Never mind they say its a poor day you don’t learn something and for Jackie todays lesson is that sex will outsell guns every time. Read em and weep you disloyal bunch of sad nomarks.

  • percy

    well written and examined brian walker
    there’s a play here I feel:

    “Two households, both alike in dignity,
    In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
    From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
    Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean”

    prologue romeo & juliet

    more on “politics and culture in norn iron” please.

  • wild turkey

    Follow the money! Follow the money!

    Seamus. of course you are right. did not realise the deepthroat lesson had made an impact in NornIronland

    on reflection, and i date myself saying this. the robinson’s revelations rank right up there with Nixons checkers speech

    read, watch it, and …. whatever

    there is a certain right wing pedigree in this self-serving ‘revelations’

    celah

  • Fabianus

    Congratulations to all concerned in the stage-managing of today’s great “story”.

    The set was perfect. Comfortable armchair, finely bound books. And what a stroke of near-genius to place that birthday card so prominently in shot. That truly must have plucked the heartstrings of the gullible.

    Hats off to the makeup people also. Peter really did look the part. What was in those drops that lent the eyes their wonderfully doleful look?

    And the performance itself was worthy of many a professional actor (some might argue that that’s what a politician is, but I’m not that cynical).

    There were a couple of moments, though, when Peter forgot himself. Negligible lapses I have to say. Merely an involuntary shiftiness in the eye movements when he was taken unawares by questions about financial matters.

    But hey, that’s a minor quibble.

    I loved, too, the part played by the gallant journalists and crews of the BBC and UTV, as they bent over backwards to put a positive spin on the whole sorry circus. Carefully edited street interviews with a “representative” sample of the ordinary folk of the Province. UTV even placed an upbeat backing track under their summation of the Robinson’s glorious careers. In all, a class act.

    It’s at times like these when I feel proud to be part of this great nation of ours!

  • crazy fenian 32

    Cant wait to see spotlight ive got the popcorn & juice ready.

  • Framer

    What can you expect when you are governed by a coalition of a fundamentalist religious sect and a paramilitary junta – secrecy, deceit, hypocrisy and perversion?

    But hey that’s devolution for you.

  • pinni

    The extremely insulting flickr image of Iris Robinson on the right hand side of the homepage is quite unbecoming of Slugger O’Toole.

  • pinni

    Okay, it’s gone!

    I know, I know, Slugger has no control of the flickr images…

  • danielmoran

    Brian Walker. Not only did Peter make liberal use of the first person singular, but he spoke of ‘my family’ not our family. Ominous for iris I think.

  • Mason Powell

    The TV flashback showing Robinson laughing and joking in top form, some 12 hours after his wife tried to commit suicide and admitted adultery suggests to me that he is either somewhat detached from reality himself; or he is an actor worthy of Oscar-nominations. The latter explanation might better fit the tearful emoting in his TV performance tonight. Probably the most shameful part of a rather bowel-emptying TV event was the craven, crawling obsequiousness of the interviewer, which reminded me of old newsreels of interviews with Prime Ministers in the 1950’s (“P.M., it’s such an honour to have you as our guest in these humble studios. Would you mind awfully if we trouble you with a few rather impertinent questions, your wondrousness?”)

  • Paul McMahon

    “Cant wait to see spotlight ive got the popcorn & juice ready”

    Anyone know how I can get BBC i player outside the UK?

  • Cynic2

    Isn’t Iris lucky to have such a caring and forgiving husband who makes it so clear on national TV that she has strayed from the true path and accepted all the fault was hers (not his) but has been saved by God’s grace and his deep and personal religious beliefs and capacity for forgiveness.

    The financial matters are of course of no consequence whatsoever set against this human tragedy. He has had a letter from the bbc asking some questions – just questions not allegations against him – and is absolutely clear that ‘he’ has done nothing wrong at all. So that’s alright then. No doubt Spotlight will now fully exonerate everyone. It may not even be broadcast when the BBC get his response clearing up these matters

    It was interesting too, to get a female perspective on all this. I watched it with a friend. She was incandescent. “Bastard” she said. I asked why. “He’s just completely denounced her on national TV” she said. “As a woman, in her circle, how can she ever go out in public again? And its all ‘I’ and ‘me’ in the statement. Cold and professional. ”

    This isn’t over yet electorally

  • feismother

    < >

    That’s how I saw it. It was his chance to rub her nose in it. All this guff from reporters about how we were now seeing the soft side of a “hard man”. Nonsense.

  • Fabianus

    feismother,

    “All this guff from reporters about how we were now seeing the soft side of a “hard man”.”

    That would be his backside I take it?

  • Drumlins Rock

    have to agree with cynic and feis, my immediate emotions went along with peter but on reflection it was cold cold cold underneath, he hung her out to dry completely and I genuinely feel much more sympathy for her at this time, and would be concerned that the type of support that peter showed her yesterday is not going to be enough to help her recovery from what is a serious condition.

  • Fabianus

    “help her recovery from what is a serious condition.”

    Whose word to we have to go on for this? Is there medical evidence available?

    Odd that it suddenly comes to light. And while we’re on the subject, who besides Peter can confirm that Iris attempted suicide?

    I’m not saying there are lies involved, but let’s not forget we’re dealing with politicians here.

    We’re also dealing with those behind the scenes, e.g. the lawyers and speechwriters who put together Peter’s speech.

  • Eleanor Bull

    ‘Confessions of dire perversion in Sinn Fein!’

    Inextricably linked to the perversional IRA.

  • Eleanor Bull

    “He’s just completely denounced her on national TV” she said.’

    Perhaps Judas will get to denounce her twice more if alleged investigations of alleged financial improprieties come to light.

    To continue with the Biblical analogies…she has been made a sacrificial lamb. Robbo was clearly distancing himself from her actions. If evidence of financial impropriety emerge, he has done what he can to put clear blue water between himself and her (and her actions). Whether the two of them were involved in alleged financial impropriety now becomes more clouded, and it’s evident that he will fight for his double jobbing while Iris can possibly face retirement running a Biblical Morals class.

  • Eleanor Bull

    “I’m not saying there are lies involved, but let’s not forget we’re dealing with politicians here.

    We’re also dealing with those behind the scenes, e.g. the lawyers and speechwriters who put together Peter’s speech.”

    No, no, no. We’re dealing with politicians…there are ALWAYS lies involved.

    As for the speechwriters, they’re clearly not very good. Both statements were appallingly written, in terms of tone.

    Perhaps some public money needs to be spent determining if Alistair Campbell is available.

  • Fabianus

    Eleanor,

    “As for the speechwriters, they’re clearly not very good. Both statements were appallingly written, in terms of tone.”

    You say, but they sure fooled several people I spoke to. This is being spun faster than a top in a tempest.

    Just listened to Stephen Nolan. I noticed that he and his team carefully screened the callers. One woman named “Mary” wanted to talk about Iris’s “depression” but he cut her off with some excuse about a bad line. And he shut up the previous caller who simply wished to speak her mind (no doubt she’d got through the Nolan screeners by aping sympathy).

    Finally he told the listeners that there was overwhelming support from callers for the Robinsons. Again we only have his word to go on. In Belfast this morning I detected very little sympathy for the two.

    When is Spotlight being shown, anyone know? We may at last get the skinny on all this.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Fabianus, I think from watching Iris’s appearance and behaviour over the past months, in public never mind private, it was certainly strongly suggestive that she was not well, verging on hysterical at times, I dont know how long back it goes but do remember thinking at the time of the gay backlash that maybe they should ease of a bit from the hounding as i didnt think she is was strong as she made out. Maybe you should ask an expert what they think but I’m certain the depression is genuine and reached a crisis point in march, I hope she makes a full recovery, and peter is alot more supportive in private than he was in that interview.

  • Fabianus

    DR,

    “I’m certain the depression is genuine”

    You are? Are you her GP, psychiatrist?

  • TAFKABO

    I’d hope that the fall out from this whole situation is a move towards a more secular society, that politicians would learn once and for all that they have no place in policing the sex lives of consenting adults.

  • Drumlins Rock

    just my own view fab, would like to hear an experts opinion, but having know some people with depression I saw similar symptoms in Iris’ behaviour, did not comment on them but now its out in the open it fair game

  • Danny Boy

    As upset as Peter looked, the outcome he asked for boiled down to the madwoman being put back in her attic, along with the blame for any questionable activities during their partnership, so that he could get on with exercising power, untainted.

    It’s a funny sort of forgiveness that involves a spouse saying on national TV ‘I have ALWAYS been faithful to HER’.

    I would be a lot more sorry for Iris if, at any point over the many months since she began her affair, she had stopped publicly and viciously denouncing others’ sexuality on the basis of her interpretation of the Bible. To be fair, her claim that ‘it is the government’s job to uphold God’s law’ was made in July 2008, possibly before this would have been a call to criminalize herself. However, we have seen zero evidence of any more humility or empathy in her and Peter’s more recent public lives, which means that, distraction from financial issues though it may be, this affair is of legitimate public interest.

    These people are legislators, who have gone out of their way to spout judgmental tripe about other people’s would-be marriages. They have made this our business. I’ve read some comments on slugger calling for us not to ‘kick them when they’re down’. Well, only one of them has any intention of going down as far as I can see, and unless Peter has a sudden delayed attack of understanding and compassion, we can’t afford to let his high horse stay within kicking distance.

  • danielmoran

    MSG 15 Fabianus. What an unhelpful contribution from the Sec. of State then to spoil the show by reminding viewers that politicians have a right to a private life, and that this privacy should be respected, while Peter and iris had waived that right aside for their own ends.

  • Fabianus

    danielmoran,

    Unhelpful is the word. Clearly the SofS wasn’t in the spin loop—as it would appear so many were.

    Did you hear Nigel Dodds on Wendy Austin’s Talkback-Lite? He put his foot in it by referring to the unknown lover as “the young man”. How could he know? Wendy then asked Dodds if he knew the man. Dodds confessed ignorance to any detail whatsoever.

    I don’t know, is it me? Do these politicos think we’re all thick? On second thoughts, maybe a great many of the electorate here are thick, given that the DUP are the largest party, with SF a close second.

    But I almost get the feeling that media and politicians (of every hue; look at McGuinness’s statement) are pulling together to help the DUP ride out the storm. Perhaps it’s for the sake of stability, what with the Men of Dis and the TUV panting for a chance to bring down Stormont.

  • Rory Carr

    Can anyone please, please let us know if and when this Spotlight programme is being aired and on which channel (BBC1NI or BBC2NI) and the time would be most helpful.

    If tonight’s the night (as the actress said to the bishop) then the matter is pressing.

    Pretty please?

  • willis

    Rory

    I would guess that m’learned friends will be all over it. Robbo may have raised the stakes to the point where Mark Thompson will have to come amongst us and deliver the judgement of Solomon. He already has his hands full with Wossy walking.

  • Lionel Hutz

    does anyone think its important that Iris is supposed to have stopped the affair by March?

    I just don’t by this thing about March. I do not think that Robinson is that good an actor. I mean he was obviously performing yesterday, but regardless of that, the worry and the fear and the hurt that were etched all over him was all for real. He can’t have done that.

    I certainly don’t think he knew about all of this in March. But I ask myself, why would he make this part up. And the only thing I can think of is that it is important to him that people know that Iris’ affair had stopped by then.

    I have no idea why though, it could be anything. Obviously the rumour mill in the press are suggesting some financial allegation, some help with public money for example, relating to the man she had an affair with. I wonder if the BBC have proof that he got something last year, later than march. Thats a complete guess obviously. Time will tell.

  • Fabianus

    Lionel,

    “the worry and the fear and the hurt that were etched all over him was all for real.”

    I’ll buy the worry and fear part. The hurt part, who can say?

    I think that which Peter fears contains the words “chickens” and “roost”.

  • Lionel Hutz

    maybe, but i just find it interesting that more people seem to be jumping on the time delay as proof that he’s acting, rather than looking at the difference in him now and in march as proof that he’s lying.

    I think the latter and why?

    Why lie?

  • Fabianus

    Lionel,

    Why lie?

    My best guess: the Robinsons thought they had the lid on things. Then events moved too quickly for them. I reckon Darragh MacIntyre’s revelations at 10.35 will open many eyes.

    Speaking of which, will Robbo be using the same eyedrops?

  • Fabianus

    Danny Boy,

    Sorry, I meant to compliment you on this:

    “As upset as Peter looked, the outcome he asked for boiled down to the madwoman being put back in her attic”

    Priceless!

  • Danny Boy

    I suppose it’s just about possible that the contrast between Peter Robinson calmly delivering First Minister’s answers from the dispatch box hours after discovering his wife’s attempted suicide and infidelity, and Peter Robinson, ashen and tearful, telling the world about that event months later, could be because the shame and possible cost of public exposure just mean more to him than the facts themselves. It might be that for a man who has spent so long maintaining an image of invincible authority, the worst thing is not the affair or even the suicide attempt, but the exposure of his lack of control. A scenario that wouldn’t paint him in any more attractive a light than the most lurid conspiracy theories…any of which could still of course turn out to be true.

  • Danny Boy

    Cheers Fabianus! : )

  • Fabianus

    Paul McMahon,

    “Anyone know how I can get BBC i player outside the UK?”

    Being in the UK myself, I can’t test this but you might try:

    I’m in Dallas and have got IPlayer working using the software available over at http://www.privoxy.org/.

    Essentially, get a web savvy mate in the UK to download it and install it, then point your proxy setting at your mate’s IP address/port in IE or Firefox, and iPlayer will work as it thinks you are based in the UK.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Danny Boy, Fabianus, it makes sense now though doesn’t it. The affair ended in march????? how crucial will that be

  • Fabianus

    Lionel,

    What, you’re saying Iris is as mad as a March hare?

    Hmmm, maybe you have something there….

  • Lionel Hutz

    A bit of amateur research shows a story from September that says that something opened five months previously, April then.

    I could be wrong, but I think the timeline of events is gonna be very important

  • Danny Boy

    Aha. God, I hope it’s what I think you think it is…disappearing up my own conspiratorial arse until Spotlight!

  • fpveritas

    How long can peter last now?

  • fpveritas

    I saw the pastor on TV twice supporting the Robinsons but no condemnation of the sin of adultery
    I suggest that they rename the church
    THE WHITEWASH METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE

    Do Pentecostals not accept that adultery is SIN?

  • Danny Boy

    I can’t believe he’s not already gone – he knew what they were going to say.

  • fpveritas

    Will Paisley say Robinson MUST GO as everyone else had to go for less

    Maybe the Old Pals Act

    THE LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVILS

  • fpveritas

    RUBBISH ROBINSONS

    THE OLDEST SINS IN THE BOOK

    ADULTERY & GREED