“Who paid the legal fees and costs for transferring the strip to Robinson?”

With the author’s permission, we have Brian Feeney’s column from yesterday’s Irish News, in which he questions Peter Robinson’s wisdom in looking for an interview over an issue which was slowly dying over the Easter weekend, and in doing so opening up further awkward lines of questioning…

Did you see the ‘rope-a-dope’? No, not the 1974 rumble in the jungle one with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. The Good Friday one with Seamus McKee and Peter ‘they’re all out to get me’ Robinson. If you don’t know anything about boxing technique, then ‘rope-a-dope’ is when one boxer dodges around the ring allowing the other to punch himself out hitting air until he’s exhausted and loses the contest.

That’s what happened in the Good Friday bout. It’s worth watching on the BBC website if you can. A master class on how not to do an interview, all twenty-four minutes of it. Seamus McKee opened with, ‘Can I ask you first why did Fred Frazer sell you a valuable piece of land for £5?’ and Robinson lunged out of his corner flailing and slashing wildly. Who advised him to handle the interview that way? Who advised him to do the interview? Did the DUP think that because it was Good Friday no one would see it on the basis that Friday is a good day to bury bad news and Good Friday probably the best?

If so, the ploy failed because their boss completely lost it within seconds of the interview opening and so it continued for the duration of the contest. He never landed a blow on McKee who sat in classic rope-a-dope style absorbing all the insults and taunts Robinson threw at him. ‘Are you so dense that you’re not picking up the point I’m making? I wish you knew how silly you sound in all of this. Are you doing your master’s bidding?’

Bullying, hectoring, desperately hoping to land a punch. Then paranoia: it was all the BBC’s fault. They’re out to get him. It’s a smear campaign. His political opponents and the BBC are all liars.
In the course of his rant Robinson never addressed the issue. He just kept insisting the ‘sliver’ of land was worthless. He ignored the fact that the BBC had independent opinion that it was worth over £70,000.

If it was worth nothing Robinson was unable to explain why Frazer had asked a developer for a price to include a percentage of the purchase price of all houses subsequently built. Robinson needs to answer the simple question, if it was of no value and not a ‘ransom strip’ why did he want it? One question McKee didn’t ask was, who paid the legal fees and costs for transferring the strip to Robinson? Did they amount to more than £5?

Robinson looked like a man on the verge of a breakdown. His UUP opponents said the interview was astonishing. To say the least. That’s not because of its content because Robinson tried to evade the key questions. He always brought it back to his garden, avoiding the rationale for wanting, in his description, a worthless a ‘sliver’ of land. It wasn’t the unanswered questions about his relationship with Fred Frazer.

What was astonishing and revealing was Robinson’s disgracefully offensive performance itself. He’s supposed to be First Minister and as such he clearly expects some respect. After twenty minutes sounding like a bar-room chancer chittering at Seamus McKee he dispelled any such expectation. He cast aside any pretence at dignity.

What a puny political figure he is: devoid of gravitas, flair, vision or imagination but full of pretensions, rancour and bile. Robinson has emerged in his true colours, a natural number two who happily carried Paisley’s bags for decades, a political flunkey who suddenly found himself in charge of the palace and starts ordering the staff around. As Paisley’s hatchet man he could throw his weight around confident that behind him loomed the heavyweight champion of unionism. With Paisley gone Robinson still tried to throw his weight around but discovered that without Paisley he’s weightless and the staff are rebellious.

For years at election time Robinson was the DUP’s Wizard of Oz. Now, when the party needs him most he’s exposed as a diminutive political figure behind a curtain and it’s not because the BBC or anyone else is after him. It’s because his deficiencies as a political leader are manifest. Notice the shocked silence from his ‘loyal’ MPs and MLAs.

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  • Drumlins Rock

    I watched Peter do a short interview outside Westminister the other day, as he walked across to the camera the body language said it all, although it is too late for this election I think he would be wise to do a “tony blair” and quit while he has some credibility left.

  • NMCNSA

    He had the look of a rabid dog in the interview with the BBC and has for your point about quitting while he has some credibility left I fear that ship has sailed.

  • YelloSmurf

    I feel somewhat sorry for Robinson. Not only is his wife very sick, but she is being hounded by the media. That would push anyone over the edge. When he is being asked illegitimate questions about his personal life, it is no wonder that he is not keen to answer the media’s questions, even the legitimate one’s which affect his public and professional life.

    That doesn’t mean that he’s not pig ignorant; other politicians who have worked with him will tell you that he has always been the sort of deeply unpleasant individual who we saw in that interview. Nor does it mean that he doesn’t have questions to answer about his relationships with developers, and about general corruption in the planning process. He has failed to adequately explain what was going on, and the questions keep mounting up.

  • Neil

    When he is being asked illegitimate questions about his personal life, it is no wonder that he is not keen to answer the media’s questions, even the legitimate one’s which affect his public and professional life.

    I dunno, I’d thought the journos had been relatively well behaved on that front, they exposed the basic facts of the situation but I’m struggling to think of any innapropriate questions asked. My sick sense of humour is providing a few suggestions but I’ll keep ’em to myself ; )

    As for the man’s temperament; when I read of Peter I can’t help but translate whatever I’m reading into his voice/accent with the words spat out like bullets. His behaviour in that interview was shocking; Seamus was like a beetroot at one point and it looked like surpressed anger to me. He did a good job by providing the rope, Peter obliged thereafter.

    Also, good job on broadcasting the unedited version as well, bit of a no-brainer but at the same time left Peter looking a bit of a tit saying how the BBC were going to edit together a hatchett job on him.

  • YelloSmurf

    Neil, I mean the behaviour of certain tabloids. I don’t think that the BBC have behaved illegitimately.

    I quite agree that Peter Robinson is habitually angry, unpleasant and ignorant.

  • NMCNSA

    Yes she looked very very sick as she wandered round Londons more fashionable districts alone shopping!
    Avoiding police interview anyone?
    Good to see the Developing Ulster Property lot closing ranks to protect its own instead of Judasing them the way the did the good Doctor.

  • YelloSmurf

    NMCNSA, If you think that I am a DUP member then you have got me badly wrong.

    The fact is that the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has confirmed that Iris Robinson is still in their care. It is possible that they are providing this care in London as it’s hard to see where they could care for her in Belfast. Call me old fashioned, but I tend to believe that when someone has been hospitalised for mental illness they are genuinely sick.

  • Fabianus

    YelloSmurf,

    You’re old fashioned.

  • The one question that intrigues is what was the ‘help’ offered to Fred Frazer in this case? Did Fred ring up one day and say, ‘Hello Peter, I want you to buy a piece of land beside you for £5. It would be a help.’

    In McKee interview: ‘And I hope that when they come to me I give them all the help that I can. That’s what I actually get elected to do, to help people.”

    In this instance what was the nature of that help, what was the purpose, what was the outcome? As in most legal matters the question is cui bono?

  • NMCNSA

    YelloSmurf I haven’t seen any statement from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and due to confidentiality it would be against the law for them to confirm who they are treating!
    Various well placed DUP sources confirmed Belfast Health and Social Care Trust were treating Iris then she popped up in London! Whoops

  • NMCNSA

    “The Strangford MP, who has not been seen in public since announcing last month that she is to quit all public office, is receiving “acute psychiatric treatment from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust”, according to a statement released by her husband.
    Belfast Telegraph
    Sunday, 10 January 2010

    Also would be interested to know who is footing the bill for her liitle stay at the top clinic costing £1000 a night?

    A wealthy property developer from East Belfast perhaps or the mug tax payer?

  • andnowwhat

    According to the Sunday Life the Belfast trust could not confirm NOR deny that they were paying for Iris’ stay and the London clinic.

    Having said that, apparently it would not be unique if they were paying for her stay

  • Rory Carr

    I could never understand why it was Iris that needed psychiatric treatment after her affair with the young fellow. Surely if anyone needed treatment it was him.

    Christ! I’m an old age pensioner and I would need treatment after that, waking up screaming in the middle of the night picturing Iris’s face on the pillow next to mine.

    Merely contemplating it now drives me to self medication so I think I’ll go off alone for a little while – just me and the comfort of Bushmills.

  • Does anyone know who is picking up his wife’s ‘medical bills?’

  • Alias

    The last two paragraphs of Feeney’s article are playing the man, not the ball.

  • Rory Carr

    Ah! Alias, but that’s allowed in a political profile. It is merely descriptive of how the author views that the political figure under scrutiny has come to be regarded. All that prefaced those two paragraphs have indicated the reasons why he may now be seen in such a light.

    Besides which – it’s election time – we can say what we like about the buggers!