Yesterday I had an extensive interview with the First Minister. Despite the brutality of my line of questioning at times to Peter Robinson when the interview on tape and camera ended he and I had a mature adult and balanced conversation with no one else in the room in another area of his headquarters. I had hurt him in the course of one of my Slugger reports. He was generous and forgiving in accepting that I had erred and corrected that error as soon as I realised my mistake. The interview continues below the fold with my own analysis at the end.Mallie: “Mr Robinson when did you find out about the cheques from the two developers?”
Robinson: “The only element that I was aware of – was that my wife during a conversation, I overheard her making arrangements for the repayment of loans.
“I ensured repayment was made through a solicitor using the proper mechanism that can be easily disclosed and made directly to the individuals who had lent the money in spite of the fact one of the individuals had sadly deceased and I insisted the money be given to the estate.”
Mallie: “Was any money held back ?”
Robinson: “No information would have led me to that conclusion until I listened to the Spotlight programme. Both I and Iris’s solicitor have been unable to get answers to those questions. We don’t believe she is in a position to give answers to those questions because of her illness. Not alone did Iris attempt to take her own life – she spent two periods of 6/8 weeks in a clinic. She has consistently been under the advice of a psychiatrist.”
Mallie: “Did you ever accept any money, any contra deals from any developer or businessmen during any phase of your life ?
Robinson: “I’ve been in public life for many decades as you know. I have never once taken one penny for myself during that time from businessmen named or unnamed, or from those who are not in business. I am in public life to do a duty – a service to the community and until the day I leave public life that is what I do.”
Mallie: “There have been historical allegations against you over how you treated your wife. Did you ever beat your wife ?”
Robinson: “I think the question is one which you better be very careful about. My wife made it very clear that we were aware of that political accusation. She made it clear in her autobiography- it was authored by someone else – that it was an absolute lie and continues to be an absolute lie.”
Mallie: “Why did your wife engage in an affair with a nineteen year old teenager?”
Robinson: “Do you really expect me to answer such a question and do you really think it is appropriate for you to ask it ?”
Mallie: “There is a concern you abandoned your wife in her hour of need”
Robinson: “Let me make it very clear my wife attempted to take her life about midnight on the first of March. These events are events which hurt and caused me very considerable pain. I resent very much the attempt by you to make me the person who is somehow responsible because that is the core of the question.”
Mallie: “That is not the core. Where were you at the time.?”
Robinson: “I don’t need any reminder of the question. I heard the question. I will answer the question. The Spotlight team exposed their own bias in the way they treated that element of the programme. The particular piece that they showed of the Assembly even though all of the other questions asked were serious in a serious vein and answered in a serious vein – they chose to take one of the questions that was asked in a more jovial lighthearted manner and that was answered in a more jovial lighthearted manner..”
“Let me tell you what happened during the course of that day. Iris,around midnight attempted to take her own life. Along with family members we ensured as far as lay within us that we removed any drugs from her body. We ensured on medical advice that she kept awake. She became more lucid in conversation we had with her.
“We kept her up during the whole of the night talking. We were then given medical advice that we should let her sleep. After she was asleep and in care of members of her family I went on to the Assembly. During that period of time the advice was given that she as a precaution should be taken into hospital. As soon as I heard that I went directly to the hospital.”
Mallie: “Are you considering quitting because of all these allegations?” (Peter Robinson wants the OFMDFM’s legal department to appoint a QC to probe all allegations.)
Robinson: “I did nothing wrong. I am prepared if it is deemed by that independent counsel that I have breached some obligation that I have not disclosed something that I should that I will take the appropriate action as a result of such a judgement. I have to uphold the office of OFMDFM that is important and its integrity is important to me and if it is that in any way I have fallen short of the standards that are required I will know what to do.”
Was this my last interview with Peter Robinson as DUP leader? The problem facing Mr. Robinson may not be a question of having right on his side legally. This is a political problem for the DUP leader. Nothing was proven against Ian Paisley Junior when he was Junior minister but he had to walk the plank.
Why? The party withdrew it’s support because he was adjudged to be a liability because the system was being stifled with only one show in town, ‘Junior.’ He believes he was taken out to get at his father. That may explain some of the motivation. He had become a liability for the party. Self preservation of the party was instinctive and he had to go.
This same instinct may well be even a bigger factor in the case of Peter Robinson. More digging is taking place. There will be some nasty collateral damage relating to alleged events over which Mr Robinson had absolutely no control but the story is not going away.
There-in hangs the tale of Peter Robin’s future.
Living History 1968-74
A unique, once-in-a-lifetime 10-week course at Stranmillis University College Belfast featuring live, in-depth interviews with leading figures from this tumultuous era in Northern Ireland’s cultural and political history.
Live interviews with: Bernadette McAliskey, Austin Currie, Brid Rogers, Baroness Blood, Dennis Bradley, Baroness Paisley, Lord Kilclooney, Tim McGarry, Danny Morrison, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and others…