Robinson: Softer, wiser, and stronger…

Lindy McDowell has never been any fan of the DUP, but…

At the time I remember describing Peter Robinson as a lame duck leader. His electoral humbling by Alliance’s Naomi Long seemed to bear that out.

I suggested that if the UUP were to get their act together (they didn’t; no surprises there) they would capitalise on DUP difficulties. But the moment passed and then a strange, unforeseen thing happened. Peter Robinson began to show his human side. Maybe he always had one and had just kept it firmly in check. The telling thing is this new compassion – there is no better word – did not, and does not, seem contrived or put on.

And in conclusion:

The new softer Peter Robinson (sounds a bit like a toilet roll ad, I know) is the sort of politician he and his party would have sneered at a couple of years back. Yet he’s also now the very picture of a triumphant and secure party leader.

Who would have thought it would have turned out like this?

As a footnote, I have previously argued that Gerry Adams might “at the very least announce he would like his post as president to become contestable”, on the basis that contention is a good way to keep a political party healthy.

Peter Robinson’s story of the last 1s months at the very least, demonstrates that contention draws your opponents out in the open, and keeps you and your party much fitter and more able for the challenges ahead.

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  • perseus

    Peter’s “on the one road”;
    compare his last couple of interviews on Hearts and Minds;
    and of course your informal chat post-election.
    He is a template for unionism .

  • Peter Robinson has just confirmed on RTE that his wife Iris will be attending the dinner in Dublin Castle this evening.

    Let’s see how long the goodwill lasts as the columnists once again focus on the family Robinson:it is the glorious 12th (of August) come early for the scratchy nib folk.

  • iluvni

    The post election rehabilitation of the wife continues.
    The people have been had.

  • Joe Bloggs

    Quite a miraculous recovery from Iris the cougar.

    One wonders why she didn’t make any public appearances a few weeks ago….

    Oh wait, there was an election on.

  • DC


    Yes not well enough to attend the Royal Wedding in London (prior to election), but is fine enough for the Royal Visit in Dublin in a Castle (after election with Robinson P elected).

    Completely had is right, Robinson P – is a complete charlatan. Complete and utter. The DUP preached anti-Dublin rhetoric for years and made a mess down there in Dundalk behaving inappropriately in and around the Courts back in the 80s, now Peter Robinson and wife is down there living it up in a castle. Just power hungry egoists the lot of them. Vanity Fair eat your heart out.

    Time to bring out the BBC’s Martina Purdy with some sensible searching questions that measure up these incosistencies, her style and tone is enough to undo him, as has been the case before.

  • I’m always a bit surprised to see how Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson appear to have grown since becoming joint FMs, they both seem to, now, have the confidence to show their ‘human’ side.

    The idea that a unionist would miss the opportunity to sup with the queen (however far down the table) is laughable. Iris would have got off her sick bed and crawled, and who knows she may have matured (better late than never) as her husband has. The press will be watching her. Its likely to be a bit of a scrum where she is concerned, at least for a few days.

  • DC

    The reason why Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson get on so well is that now both men are completely compromised.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I’m sorry but I still don’t believe the cuddly Peter, I could accept the transformation in the Old Doc, the softer side was always there and was a vital part of his character. I even accept Marty is now so far from the manifestation of evil most Unionists saw him as, that some change in character must have taken place since his “active” days. Meanwhile you know Gregory and Gerry retain a foot in the past, but for practicalities sake want to make the things work. But I still see the soft vulnerably Peter as false, he might even believe it himself at times, but in the debates and the great hall the other day you saw the mask slip a bit, I still think that is the real Peter.

  • JAH

    A basic tenet of Christianity is forgiveness. Whilst it has been in short supply in Ireland for a long time, and in particular in the Robinson household, that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be extended to them.

    Both Robinsons were punished, Iris in particular by becoming a worldwide figure of fun. But Peter has come back as a man who has discovered empathy because it was extended to him. He also acted ultimately in a proper manner towards his wife. It would have been ‘easier’ to walk out on Iris but he stuck by her whatever the consequence.

    He forgave her and the electorate decided he had suffered enough. It is still a Christain country.

    Now about Iris and gays…

  • nightrider

    A fawning and compliant media might buy it, and it’s largely a media construction. Lots of people watch (and enjoy) ‘Britain’s got talent’. The same people will buy this ‘Stepford politician’ makeover. Some will even be credulous enough to believe the falling in to the pond BS.

  • perseus

    Drum it takes time to complete the transformation
    surely every good god-fearing presby bible thumper knows;

    Ephesians 4:22-24 (NASB)
    that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self,
    which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
    23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
    24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God
    has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

    It is worth reading the whole thing as peteb would say

    I claim the point 😉

  • DC

    Don’t get me wrong, at a personal level it’s great things have moved on and this is happening.

    But in terms of the DUP and the Robinsons, it seems to me that this group of people who were the ones that ripped the bag out of Dublin and the Irish for so long and so strongly slaggged all of that off, are now the ones enjoying its best hospitality. Iris – somewhat strangely – included.

    Some might say it is a victory for peace and pragmatism, but if so it is over long-held principles by that party (not my own views of course) which – given the shortness of time that has passed allowing for this conversion – to me borders on hypocrisy.

  • nightrider

    The new softer, wiser, and stronger Jackie McDonald.

    I’m guessing most people see through the coached veneer but don’t really care. Everyone follows the money.

    The Tony Blair school of false bonhomie produces another graduate.

  • Drumlins Rock

    BTW I wish Iris well and hope she enjoys the evening, she has paid a heavy price for her mistakes, but remains the wife of our First Minister and is entitled to just the same respect and trappings of the post as Mrs McGuinness is due, if Marty chosen to attend!

  • What price have either Robinson paid for their dodgy dealings with property developers? We need an assumption of corruption bill. As power corrupts, and money corrupts, all Ministers, millionaires and Permanent Secretaries must be assumed to be corrupt until they can prove otherwise. While the rest of us continue to get the benefit of the doubt.

  • iluvni

    By any chance, has Mrs Robinson rejoined the DUP?

    Maybe Mr Mallie could ask that ‘brutal’ question.

  • Nothing succeeds like success and one of the amusing things of the past few weeks has been the curious re-appraisal of Peter Robinson (and Martin McGuinness) by the journalistic establishment.
    I suspect some of it at least, is based on the fact that DUP and Sinn Féin are going to be in government for a very very long time.
    I dont know Lindy McDowells writing (I dont read the Belfast Telegraph) but there is a curious relunctance of journalists to admit theyve got things wrong.
    They believe that they were right THEN and they are right NOW. The narrative is that Peter Robinson (and indeed Martin McGuinness) has changed.
    But several months ago we read on Slugger of the seemingly polite reception afforded to the Joint FMs at Ashfield Boys School in East Belfast.
    People asking for autographs even.
    Perhaps a genuine acceptance by ordinary people that the Future is better than the Past.
    Politicians in UUP and SDLP who are fixated by “before 1998” did not do so well. Tom Elliott publicly rebuked by all and sundry for a remark which would have been acceptable a very short time ago.
    History seems to move in fits and starts……..
    The “Barbarians” are no longer outside the gates. They are within them. Perhaps the process is helped by Gerry Adams being in an Dáil and away from the local scene. But really the Elections just two weeks ago were the final nail in the coffin of “shroud wavers”. Nobody cares now. And for the past 13 years Nobody cared ….enough.
    Predictably the journalists are just catching up with the Public Mood.
    And frankly it makes economic sense that they so do. Journalists marginalised by TV because they were deemed too close to the DUP or Sinn Féin will now be invited more often to “Hearts & Minds” and “The Politics Show”. Those who demonised the DUP or Sinn Féin will get a fewer invites than before.
    The Times…….more so than Robinson and McGuinness……are a changin’.

  • Framer

    Iris trying to upstage the Queen?

    This is the last time and place for her first outing.

    I understand why the royal wedding was inappropriate but the Queen’s visit to Dublin is quite wrong for so many reasons.

  • nightrider

    It’s all part of the ‘road to recovery’ for Mrs Robinson. As she continues to ‘get better’ from her illness. Doesn’t it just warm the little cockles of your soul.

  • Joe Bloggs

    Hopefully she can soon respond to the question everyone wants answered:

    How can an elected politician walk into the offices of two separate millionaire property developers and leave a few minutes later with cheques totaling £50,000?


  • Neil

    I’d be more interested to know if she’s re-evaluated her feelings about homosexuals. Given her own indescretions, and the fact that the New Testament seems very concerned with adultery and not so worried about gay people, perhaps she’s had a chance to reflect.

  • RyanAdams

    I don’t think we will ever get the ’50k question’ answered.

    I think we can be certain enough that she won’t be allowed to re-enter any form of politics or even rejoin the DUP.

  • Henry94


    That’s what the people in the south thought when we set up the Tribunals. A few hundred million in legal fees later and it turns out it was exactly what it looked like.

  • “Nobody cares now. And for the past 13 years Nobody cared ….enough.”

    fjh, I think a lot of folks have thrown in the towel. It’s hardly surprising that the turn-out is dropping fast and the extremists, with their fake smiles, are gaining market share. You might think that the MSM would go for the jugular when elected representatives/candidates are caught in the act but not a bit of it. Such silence cannot be good for democracy.

  • Im not entirely sure if its throwing in the towel, or facing reality relunctantly or embracing reality enthuiastically. Most likely a combination of all those things.
    There is just no mileage in any politician from UUP or SDLP clinging to any notion of moral superiority as a vote-winner.
    People have forgotten and I suspect they actually want to forget.
    And as Ive said earlier today, the journalists are now facing the reality. Depending on their age, they have spent one, two, three or four decades looking down their noses at DUP and Sinn Féin.
    Now they will fall over themselves to build bridges to those likely to be in power for a long time. They miscalculated in the Trimble/Mallon years that DUP & SF would be a permenant minority.
    They got it hopelessly wrong so go with the “theyve changed” narrative.
    And lets be honest..its amusing.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I had noticed that re-appraisal as well. It started rather before the election, there was a Spotlight all about Robinson’s life a few months ago and it was especially sympathetic. It almost felt as if the journalists felt guilty or something about sticking the knife into the guy a year before. The Belfast Telegraph has done a few fawning articles too.

    My opinion of Robinson, a broadly positive one, has not really changed in the past few years. He didn’t become a reasonable politician overnight, he actually has been for quite some time, since (perhaps unlike Paisley and friends) he has the tactical nous to see the benefits of positioning the party for government and power, and of course the advantages of confronting SF and calling their bluff rather than doing boycotts and walkouts.

    Anyone who has had to work with him will tell you that you better make sure you know your stuff before you go into a meeting with him, as he is always on top of whatever the brief is. Everyone knows that he has been more or less the de facto DUP leader for anywhere up to 10 years prior to Paisley stepping down. The remoulding of the DUP message to one of a tough but fair pro-Agreement stance is all his work. It takes some deft footwork to steer a party like that around all the potential obstacles associated with that change in direction and come out unscathed; a challenge not dissimilar from that (except maybe in timescale) met by Adams and McGuinness when they were reforming the Provos.

    In general with the DUP, and again this predates the Iris business, party members/elected reps/activists seem to be more comfortable letting their hair down, as if they no longer feel they are constantly on the defensive. I don’t think any of this is fake or some sort of facade. I think they’re enjoying what it’s like to actually get on with people, and this is reflected in Robinson himself. Of course the man still has a quick temper – it is the temper on display in the Seamus McKee interview which cost him his Westminster seat, and we saw it again during the BBC leader’s debates – but everyone has their faults.

  • Comrade Stalin

    There is just no mileage in any politician from UUP or SDLP clinging to any notion of moral superiority as a vote-winner.

    Took Alliance about 30 years to figure this out.

    They miscalculated in the Trimble/Mallon years that DUP & SF would be a permenant minority.

    In fairness, pretty much everyone did. Including Trimble and Mallon.

  • “People have forgotten and I suspect they actually want to forget.”

    I’d phrase it differently, fjh. The people have been forgotten, Unionist, Nationalist and Other alike. London and Dublin abandoned the UUP and SDLP for Nimbyist reasons to do a deal with the ‘hard men’; they’ve unashamedly elevated the parapoliticians and paramilitaries above the politicians.

    I remember speaking to an SDLP staffer in Belfast a few years ago about the possible consequences of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs fraternising with/sanitisation of paramilitaries. He predicted that Sinn Fein would benefit at the ballot box at the SDLP’s expense; he was right. I’ve also pointed out on SO’T that the DFA’s Justice colleagues here were much more circumspect; they were more than a little nervous.

  • Joe Bloggs

    When Iris does her tell-all TV interview (with extra tears in a cynical attempt to gain sympathy) will the journalist have the balls to ask about the two cheques totaling £50,000???

    The BBC believed she had broken the law and she has still not – 18 months later – explained exactly what went on….

  • Nevin ….the Process asked us to embrace the “hard men” and rightly or wrongly we did….with different levels of enthusiasm.
    To some extent liberal dissidents, who prior to 1998 (as mere liberals) urged us to do this …..have reconsidered their position in the light of DUP-SF being in the lead positions……and feign a kinda disgust that we are no longer willing to do the bidding of our betters.
    The liberal dissidents cant have it both ways.

  • Comrade Stalin
    You are absolutely right. Not even Alliances greatest enemy could accuse them of being morally superior to anybody.

  • Driftwood

    Joe Bloggs
    The narrative is written by the NIO, who have discarded previous incumbents, and write the script for the present ‘executive’. Iris was brought out of the (dirty) linen cupboard when it suited. She no longer is needed and can be utilised as a ‘wife’ as and when suits. Now that she has recovered from whatever illness she apparently had. 3 steps behind her husband but no talking though, at least until the book deal.
    Her teenage boyfriend has ‘left the building’ in government speak.

  • fjh, I think the SDLP staffer was expressing his disgust at those Dublin public servants who would abandon people in the community who failed to do the bidding of the paramilitaries.

  • Zig70

    I admire Robbo. He has done what few have. Doesn’t mean I like him but boy has he played a blinder. Political genius in our midst. I’m inspired to go and reak havoc on the poor gits that work in my sphere.

  • Gopher

    Good week for Peter. In realpolitik [sic] terms Robinson he has both elevated the institution of Stormount in everyones eyes looked prime-ministerial and put clear daylight between his post and the deputy first minsters post. Definitely a bad mistake gifting Peter that type of exposure and the UUP definately wont be thanking SF for it. The only good new for the UUP and SF was the election was a couple of weeks ago.

  • Joe Bloggs. No doubt there will be ‘a relapse’ if the media here actually start asking the ‘brutal questions’ as Mallie did at the time before caving in. Iris knows she can depend on the media here to fawn over her ad nauseum [and ad nauseating],so there’ll be no more said about her er, hospitalisation’ in case they incur the wrath of peter.

  • streetlegal

    It has to be said that Irish O’Robinson was looking good in green.

  • Eglise en bois

    The amazing thing about this whole affair and rehabilitation thing, remains that it is played out to a pattern well rehearsed for centuries in Ireland

    When your wife/daughter plays away, get her to admit she is “mentally ill”, find a nice hospital/clinic/asylum to have her treated in (to keep her out of the public eye). play the wounded caring partner and only rehabilite her if or when she can no longer do you damage.

    If this means that you have to play the wounded troubled soul do so, but make sure that in all you do the emphasis remains totally on the errant wife and not on you the loving, patient, caring soul, who has a political career to rescue

    Find some sycophantic journalist to write you up for sainthood and learn not to snarl so much in public.


  • Comrade Stalin

    Driftwood, I think there is a very nasty edge to your comments of late. The idea that the problems with Robinson’s wife were all orchestrated and set up by the NIO is completely insane – you’re into woo-woo black helicopter stuff.

    If you ask anyone who came into contact with her in the assembly or elsewhere they will pretty much all agree that the news that she had been suffering from psychological problems did not come as a surprise. She was not really emotionally equipped to be in politics IMHO. It’s hard for anyone who has a bit of compassion not to feel some kind of sympathy/pity for the circumstances. I do not doubt for a second that she was diagnosed with her illness by a professional. Mental illnesses are like anything else, they are treatable and often completely curable. There is no need for a conspiracy theory here.

    I find it a bit uncivilized/tasteless/heartless for people to keep going on about this kind of personal stuff long after the event. It’s an awfully cheap shot for anonymous people to point and laugh. The property/land business is, of course, a very different matter (and it is what really did Robinson political harm) but it’s not like you can say that he has not paid for those mistakes. You wouldn’t wish that whole public exposition of your private life on anyone.

    Regarding the royal visit .. Gok Wan I am not, but I’m wondering if Iris was consciously trying to express something by wearing emerald green. Either way, I’m definitely loving the idea that we’re living in an age where the DUP leader (and his wife) head down to Dublin to attend a state dinner. I doubt this would have been possible even ten years ago, had the queen come to visit back then.