Robinson faces a political rather than a legal problem…

Well after days and days of rumours we have some concrete details. Or at least some pretty stiff accusations. Peter Robinson has said he can answer them directly. He should at least be given the chance to be heard. But if yesterday’s testimony on the sex end of the story looked good, the BBC’s case looked just as bad.

But I think of all the early analysis, Splintered Sunrise sketches out the political (as opposed to strictly legal) problem for Peter Robinson:

The first thing to remember is that the north is a small place. Politicians and business people know each other very well. There are lots of informal links, and especially in the fundamentalist community it’s quite common for business deals to be concluded on a handshake, without the need for anything so vulgar as a contract. The only way you can guard against corruption is to have government transparency and a press that does its job. On both counts the north has been lacking.

The second thing is an important thing to understand in terms of how evangelical Protestants think. Although sexual morality is important, the sex thing is not nearly as politically important as the money thing. Lots of people, outraged by what Iris said about homosexuals, will be enjoying a little schadenfreude, but there aren’t many of those people in the DUP. (There is of course a thriving gay subculture in the DUP, but it’s very heavily closeted.)

Iris having committed the sin of fornication does not matter as much as how she handles it, and a penitent Iris asking for God’s forgiveness is textbook. It’s a mistake to think that fundamentalists are intolerant of human frailty – they assume sin to be a fact of life and are more interested in how people deal with their sinful behaviour, whether or not they repent it.

No, the money issue is the important one, in that it has the potential to damage the DUP.

The killer part of all of this may be the sense there is just so much innuendo around the couple as a result of this that they simply cannot do other than go… Or as Jenny puts it, it is the combination of sex and money that will do for them, even if either one would not have been sufficient to do the job…

And there are noises off waiting to ask a whole new set of questions ancilliary to these particular ones… Even if the press don’t touch them with the proverbial barge pole, just scale them up into a TUV election campaign and the party has a whole mess of trouble…

And Jeff Peel, the first we think to coin the term “Robinsongate”

The problem is essentially political and not legal…

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  • Stunning_Steve

    It’s called having a stigma and needing to the clear the air to let the focus rest on proper politics – re policing and security and peace building.

    Resign Robinson, for goodness sake clear off.

  • Skintown Lad

    Even on the case the BBC presented, Robbo found out about his wife’s dodgy dealings and insisted the money should be paid back. How many other politicians would just have hoped the issue went away? Quite a lot. Perhaps to the letter of the rules (though it’s unclear) he should have gone public, but given that she is his wife, how realistic was it to expect that? I’m not sure his honour has been dented that much, given the huge dilemma he faced.

  • The problem is essentially political and not legal…

    As (along with duck-houses and “flippings” and expenses and more) it always has been.

    Don’t dignify this nasty, sleazy little business as a “-gate”. What we have here is a couple who rose through the pond-life to the top, lived the millionaire life-style on their lily-pad, and wanted more, more, more. Wasn’t there, quite recently, an inspirational autobiography for the faithful to buy? Didn’t the Belfast Telegraph celebrate her as “Northern Ireland’s First Lady”? [That last one is a lulu for Finbarr Saunders aficianados.]

    When the bill came in, there wasn’t fifty grand (or there wasn’t the will) to pay it off. All these years it’s been the Robinson “team” — him, her, and the brood: suddenly she is written out of the saga.

    Is 10% of the divvy the going rate in Castlereagh?

  • Drumlins Rock

    politically as leader of the DUP surely he shuold have decided she was not fit for office and at the very very least should give up her assembly and council seats using the double jobbing as a cover, and give up westminister at this election, but knowing all he did he allowed her to continue in her various roles, in fact he is still allowing her to continue in them.

  • Mr. J.

    As far as how many other politicians would have hoped the issue would have went away, you are certainly correct in my humble opinion, Skintown Lad. However, I’m not sure that it changes the fact that the details of this whole debacle has permanently damaged the First Minister. This strikes me as one of those issues that will never really go away, and because of the scandalous aspect of it, will now become lodged in the memory of the population of Northern Ireland.

    Whether or not Peter Robinson knowingly did something legally wrong, on a political level he did.

    Wrongly, many people assume that all politicians are self-interested and self-serving. However, when a politician as high profile as the First Minister is strongly suspected of misconduct, and it appears the only way he will survive this is by having his lawyers argue that he didn’t *technically* breach the Code of Conduct, it reinforces that opinion and does nothing more than damage politics in Northern Ireland as a whole.

    For this reason, he should do the honourable thing and stand down.

    Whether or not he will, personally, I highly doubt it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Actually, we are taking £5k not £50… the bulk of the money moved from McCambley from the investors and back… Looks like Peter’s role, if any, was to reverse an improper agency between his politician wife and the party’s involved… we don’t know from the BBC output if he actually knew about the £5k…

  • Skintown Lad

    Mick

    I didn’t quite grasp it, but was the BBC alleging that when Iris said she wanted a cheque for 25k made out to herself rather than the church, this was to pay off her own debts or so she could pass it on to the developers?

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve been working through the numbers and the direction of travel on a new post at the top of Slugger…

  • Skintown Lad

    Another aspect that has not been properly explained is how the council can put out a tender and after months (?) the only candidate meeting the criteria was a 19 yr old with no business experience whatsoever.

    What were the criteria?

    1. Candidate must be shagging the first lady;

    2. Candidate must not be called Peter.

    3. That is all.

    Who drafts the criteria? Did no-one else in the council think it was a little “focussed”?

  • Mr. J.

    SL,

    If there was pressure exerted by the Robinsons to accept McCambleys tender, no-one, and I mean absolutely no-one in Castlereagh Council would dare question it.

    This is what comes from having elected representatives who think they are, and have been allowed to behave like, royalty.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    If the issue for Peter is political rather than legal, then he will survive if the other parties and governments want him to survive.

    How important is Peter to the Process? Whether we like it or not, that is the question most likely to decide his fate.

  • Skintown Lad

    Mr J

    I can see how that may be the case, but according to the reports McCambley’s was the only offer available to be accepted, the only one that met the criteria. That leads me to question what on the earth the criteria could have been, to exclude many other experienced cafe owners with a proven track record.

  • Mr. J.

    SL,

    Fair point, and it will be interesting to see if that part is properly explained.

  • Dunumian

    Wonder when the the DUP greysuits will come and tell Peter its time to go –
    I think personally he is accountable as party leader for the actions of dup members and the only way that the DUP can do a spring clean is under a new leader-
    and at the moment DUP politicians will be looking over their shoulders come May 6th and am sure Jim Allister is rubbing his hands in glee over these revelations

  • petermac

    When I think that Peter Robinson called for Margaret Ritchie to stand down for breech of Ministerial Code
    because she would not sign up too the sham budget
    The Executive should force HIM to stand down or refuse to work with him trouble is whoever they get will be no better

  • Mrazik

    It’s not just the Robinson clan that face continuing political (and legal) questions.

    Inappropriateness in the planning process is not unknown on the island of Ireland but it has certainly been surprising how little it has been exposed in the north. Proving it is of course extremely difficult as it’s hard to “follow the money” if it is cash, while whistle blowers have been few and far between.

    Local councillors from the early 1970s haven’t had direct power over planning decisions here, with local councils simply acting as key consultees. The centralised DOE structures haven’t exactly been transparent or accountable but this will change with the impending implementation of the RPA.

    Given the return of day-to-day planning powers to new local councils from next year, and the future oversight powers of the centralised DOE, how can politicians possibly continue to double-job as MLAs and local councillors? How could the same people at the regional level (MLA) possibly provide oversight to those at the local level (councillor) if they are one and the same person?

    Equally, how can the local parties possibly go on not disclosing how they are funded when the new planning structures come into being and local councillors will have direct control over planning decisions?

    Property development and land deals are classic breeding grounds for corruption where financial interests often exert undue influence over policy development as well as individual decisions. Bricks and mortar are often also considered the best means of money laundering. It’s time we finally woke up to what’s going on…