“…but latterly Robinson has performed well enough in this regard”

The northern Irish media have been camped for so long on Peter Robinson’s lawn that there will be very few people left when he eventually does retire from politics who cannot say they hadn’t predicted it already (and in some cases, long long ago).

In yesterday’s Irish News Newton Emerson has written something of a valedictory (just in case he is actually going to go this time). It’s a fittingly unsentimental account for such a cold fish of a politician:

Robinson might never have professed his love for Catholics, while his belated attempts at outreach have veered from the cynical to the patronising. However, his long record is devoid of the hateful anti-Catholic statements that can be cited against so many of his colleagues.

To the extent that anyone should be credited for the bare minimum of civilised behaviour, Robinson’s non-sectarianism may be due to the very traits he is usually criticised for – being cold and calculating. Perhaps he is not interested in other people’s religion because he is not interested in other people generally and he has no time for sectarianism because he has calculated it is pointless.

If so, we should take progress where we find it. Robinson was never going to reach this conclusion by holding hands at the community centre.

Sectarianism is about more than religion, of course. Political intolerance can be as bad or worse but latterly Robinson has performed well enough in this regard. Once he decides to do a deal with Sinn Fein, he jumps in with both feet. His rows with republicans are invariably about deals he feels have been broken, after which he can fake friendliness towards Martin McGuinness almost better than he can fake it with anyone.

It must help that Robinson is not a Troubles victim. The worst attack alleged against his person was a case of a food poisoning in a restaurant, which his wife blamed on “nationalist staff”.

Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster, Robinson’s probable successors as party leader and first minister respectively, both suffered horrendous traumas at the hands of the IRA. Gunmen targeted Dodds while he visited his son at a children’s hospital, a crime considered shocking even by Troubles standards. Foster had to leave her home as a child after an attempt on her father’s life and later survived the bombing of a school bus.

How many of us could live through these experiences then sit calmly in an office with the people we hold responsible?

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  • mickfealty

    Trevor, really?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I do not care for Bryson’s blog or the motivations of those who are pulling his strings, but Robinson’s abuse of parliamentary privilege to attack the good name of Peter Curistan was a serious development at the time.

    This was a well-worn tactic deployed a number of times by the DUP. A couple years previously, Ian Paisley named a number of people as members or associates of the IRA (further Guardian analysis here). In addition Andrew Hunter (who later became the DUP’s first, and to my knowledge only, MP from outside Northern Ireland unless one counts the honourary Member for Vauxhall) also threatened to name individuals supposedly connected with the Omagh bombing.

    This was a shameful abuse of privilege and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of those who were named, and the DUP to my knowledge never apologised for it. It is a reminder that, as clever and hard working, and ultimately pragmatic, as Peter Robinson might be, he and others in his party will use whatever tactics they think are appropriate to secure their objectives. They’re, flatly, simply not very nice people.

  • mickfealty

    I’m pretty sure you will find an awful lot more detailed and reliable information on that story in Slugger’s archives (try using the search facility). But if you don’t mind me saying, it’s also a bit off the topic in hand.

    We have to be able to talk about specific aspects of a story without always being reminded of the “something nasty in the woodshed” they’ve left in a long trail behind them. If you want to contend with something in the post do so. And if you can bring that Curistan material in with you to prove it, be my guest.

    But I don’t see you making the least effort here to connect in conversation or argument. In other words play the ball, not the man. Twitter’s a big wide world there for all the venting you’ll ever need to do.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Mick, no man-playing or off-topicness intended, I thought the point was topical in the context of the point made by Newton about being cold and calculating etc. But I will leave it there.

  • mickfealty

    Good. I’m off for my first glass of red this week. It’s been a long one…

  • Gingray

    Never thought of it like that! There is some truth in it, hard to recall any real anti catholic sentiments.

    When do you think he will go Mick?

    I think he has tried to make it work, but selling Sinn Feins agenda to his own party was only partially successful, causing several DUP turnarounds. Didn’t help that Sinn Fein have been so unreliable either, reneging on deals more whimsically than anyone could tolerate.

  • Granni Trixie

    When I read Newtons piece I assumed it was meant as a joke – is it not?

  • Robin Keogh

    His support for the whole red beret nonsense and his leading a mob into monaghan gives us a pretty good idea of where he stood on catholics and nationalists. Similar to thers he carried the coffin of a killer yet doesnt have to cope with similar condemnation.

    In latter years he calmed and became a statesman of sorts. Not quite as accomplished and internationally respected as Gerry Adams but not far from it.

  • Zig70

    Isn’t it always? If the daily mail printed a left wing column you would think it was a piss take.

  • Granni Trixie

    Should add, especially as evidence of his ‘Catholic’ credentials Newton reminds us that many of his business dealimgs have been with Catholics.

  • Granni Trixie

    Aw Mick, come on. Newton is makmg a generalisation of tendencies in a mans career which ofcourse means trailing over his past to respond with a view. So inevitably you could call this unavoidable man playing.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    This, as we both know Granni, should be something that in any same society should go entirely without remark.

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    My wish and disire 》》》》》that they would all go , restore normality.
    NI is paying for the past heinous crimes committed by murders. Government protection all costs. It is the tax payers who are drained keeping a dysfunctional shower of dirty clowns in power sectarian bigots. Root cause is pain & suffering evil in power. Not worth a vote in my opinion Both sides one way ticket only -put them on an island let them fight it out.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Mary, your writing’s more and more like a pastiche of “Last Year at Marienbad”. If William Burroughs was still about he might appoint you as his guide to grammar and syntax.

  • mickfealty

    Only unavoidable if you are being unconscionably (and unforgivably) lazy Granni… 😉

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And I guess the question is: how more … eh charmless will the DUP become when a new leader is appointed? Being charmless isn’t incompatible with being cold and calculating but it isn’t incompatible with being pragmatic or strategic either. And the DUP’s fortunes largely rest on these qualities of Stavros, dalek in chief. What the future holds after the appointment as leader of another charmfree poker face but with normal human sentiment and its inevitable frailties & reactivities is anybody’s guess. I can only hope that a few too many knee jerk reactions, emotional outbursts and negative little boys’ games will propel this frothy mouthed cabal into some parallel universe that only Time Lords can visit.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ben, have you encountered the work of the late Hubert Selby Jr? I remember purchasing my first edition of “Last Exit to Brooklyn” from Erskine Mayne’s on Donegal Square West after a rather liquid lunch at the Spanish Rooms when I was on my Pre-Dip year a few blocks away. Years later I met the English publisher of my edition, Marion Boyars (Calder and Bowers), a close friend of my wife’s mother.

    Mary’s vivid, disjointed style is far more like Hubert’s brilliantly innovative prose:


  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Robin for the pure satire of those last sentences. I’m sorry I missed them this morning, they’d have made my day!

    Ah, “accomplished and internationally respected”……golden, and I used to be friendly with wits such as Victor Spinetti and Ned Sherrin!

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And Selby Jr was knowing in the same way that Picasso was an excellent draughtsman. She instead takes the Florence Foster Jenkins approach to English prose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6ubiUIxbWE
    And who was that Spanish woman who touched up the fresco of Jesus and turned it into a portrait of Sasquatch?

  • Granni Trixie

    Can you blame me – absurdity here,there, everywhere.

  • Robin Keogh

    I know it is difficult for some of us here to accept that GA is liked respected and admired abroad but there you go.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Robin, while there are many things you say I agree with, this is never going to be one of them. That you can put “respected” and “Gerry Adams” in one sentence is because of the manner in which his career is presented to those who only meet him in print, in order to marginalise issues such as his utterly unjustifiable behaviour towards his niece Áine and others. How can anyone honestly respect anyone who in effect hushes up “in family” sexual abuse for what appears to be entirely political reasons? His record on this and other things must for any thinking person mean that he can neither be trusted or respected. Nowhere else in the world, except in rigidly controlled dictatorships, would a record of such behaviour not ensure well deserved political oblivion. If he had any genuine understanding for what SF claims to stand for, he would have long ago retired from politics so as not to taint the party with such moral ambiguity. You’ll know by now I’m not saying this in support of any other party here.

    As for the idea that someone with as narrow a range of political skills and ideals such as Peter Robinson can in any way be “accomplished and internationally respected”…..obviously you have never actually spoken with the kind of front line US politicians my wife’s family know socially. “Real people” deal with Adams and Robinson because they are in power here, but actual respect for their record and abilities, as John Byrom says “that’s quite another thing.”


    I’d agree that those abroad who only “know” both men from the kind of modern journalism that relies on press releases might have been gulled into some kind of blind “respect”, but none of those who deal with them politically, in my experience. The characterisation of Peter Robinson above as someone who “has no time for sectarianism because he has calculated it is pointless” needs to be perhaps qualified by the rather less neutral possibility that he simply does not actually care about any issue except holding political power in order to build a personal career and to enjoy the many benefits of such a career in politics. Public service on behalf of any section of the community in such cases will always be incidental to the trajectory required by the genuine concerns of such politicians. When this is recognised, the notion of any respect for such people becomes an impossibility.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ben, while on the subject of great woman artists, have you ever encountered Larne’s most famous daughter, recently re-issued by a small local press?


    I think the introduction can be accessed on the “look inside” feature of Amazon, and it makes some very interesting claims.

    I’ve long had Florence Foster Jenkins on vinyl, to play on particularly grey mornings when only her most interesting voice and a few pages of “Irene Iddesleigh” can reach my ennui, and inspire my work as it once inspired Ronald Firbank.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Naming her characters after fruit and vegetables is somehow apt to the wee six. Her literary legacy (& literacy) seems to be unwittingly adhered to by many bloggers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I even have a few “our master” Peter’s works on my shelves, but then I must admit to a rather malicious sense of humour.

  • kalista63

    Can’t think of Rinson and his clique without remember Kyle Paisley’s statements on what they have done to his father’s legacy. Unlike SF, who ve fa ed down republican’s who don’t want progress, the DUP indulged their Neanderthals, throwing the old switches that served them well in past days.

    We’ve just spent a whole month laughing at their melodramatics re the in out malarkey. Then there’s Frazers, Red Sky and the moral hypocrisy as well as making NI a UK wide joke with creationist exhibits and their performances in the HoC in morality debates eg. gay marriage.

    As for sectarianism, there their support for sectarian protests from Harryville to Holy Cross to defending the actions of the flute band outside Patrick’s chapel. There’s also the party leader giving his support for the sectarian Gang, the UDA. The. We have the party’s reaction to inquiries and invetigationqs that found victims to be innocent, despite decades of defamation. Just recently, Arlene was featured in a Spotlight episode supporting discrimination against Catholics purchasing property, her famously berating Jim Allistef because his wife’s family had sold an inherited property to Catholics (who she called, republicans, in the fine tradition of the DUP endangering people’s lives with their words).

    As an aside, nationalists and republicans get it in the neck for saying that the UDR were a sectarian organisation but look at those former UDR people who are inolitics now. There was Maginnis, then there’s Poots, Foster, Donaldson, Elliot. Could anyone seriously see them acting impartially when in their greens?

  • Tochais Siorai

    By who exactly?

  • Rory Carr

    I had long accepted that there was a proscription against personal, ‘ad hominem’, attacks on this site but I see that you two gents have cleverly swerved that rule by pouncing on one of the few women to visit the place in a mutual ego-caressing ‘ ad feminam’ dialogue.

    How very uplifting.

  • Robin Keogh

    Nelson mandela, Bill Clinton, Ian Paiskey became good friends with both gerry and marty

  • Tochais Siorai

    Good friends, my arse. Don’t confuse friends with acquaintances, particularly in politics. I’d say Mandela’s hosting of Adams had far more to do with training given by the Provos to UwS decades ago rather than anything personal. As for Bill, well, that’s what Bill does. He’s friends with everyone. And no-one.
    And Ian Paisley wasn’t ‘abroad’

  • MainlandUlsterman

    enjoyed The Demon a lot

  • SeaanUiNeill

    One I never read myself, MU, the mid 1970s were a crazy period of my establishing myself in the film world in London, with 18 hour days over Moviolas, flatbed Steenbecks and lots of animation drawings for, amongst other projects, the first Southbank show titles with Pat Gavin and Jerry Hibbert. But I’ve been told of the book by friends. If I were not so laden down with History material (mss, usually now) I still need to read………

  • SeaanUiNeill

    ????? I’m really confused about how this relates to my criticism of GA over his treatment of Áine! Or of the abilities of Peter Robinson (the entire trajectory of Mick’s posting).

    I think, Rory, you may be confusedly commenting about some my earlier postings above, but in that case why not append your rebuke to the actual comment? If perhaps I’m correct in thinking you are referring to my comment on Mary Anna Quigley’s comments, as far as I know, Robin, with whom my exchange is at present, has made no comment on her to date.

    I’m still very confused at being rebuked. Her style of comment is a fine match for Hubert Selby Jr, a much respected literary experimentalist. If you had ever read him, the resemblance would be obvious. In terms of negativity it’s a little like comparing her with Joyce! And, as I remember, I’ve several times up voted her comments on threads and feel no personal desire to in any way inhibit her comments. I felt I was correcting Ben’s rather harsh assessment of her value by pointing to her literary skills as an experimental commentator. My other comparison of her with Amanda and “Irene Iddesleigh” cites a new edition of that book whose introduction is explicit on carefully criticising those misogynists who try and simply dismiss Amanda’s writings, as you’d have noticed if you followed up the link and actually read the introduction on Amazon’s “look inside” facility. I clearly remember some interesting comments from you on Brian Friel about a month back on Slugger that suggested that you might just have picked up the subtleties in my literary allusions.

    Could it be that you are yourself engaging in something of an ‘ad hominem’ adventure of your very own? Please disabuse me of the feeling that this is a round about way of perhaps distracting attention from Gerry Adams’ treatment of Áine through an attempt to discredit my strongly feelings on this issue by misdirecting other readers to a spurious charge of misogyny….

    Hey, man, I actually enjoy the way Mary writes!…………and am in utter agreement with her on the suggestion, “Both sides one way ticket only – put them on an island let them fight it out.” Which is what has actually happened in the real world, except we are all on that same island………

    I await an fulsome apology, such as that I once offered Robin when I accused him of something he was not in any sense guilty of.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It’s a belter – think Heller’s “Something Happened”, only with a more ragged soul. Now there’s a book I need to re-read …

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ll make time, and shift the current Adrian McKinty over for a later date.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Tochais Siorai, I’m wondering if the late Lord Bannside was at least “abroad” in the sense that the mental space he inhabited would not have been defined as “Ireland’, perhaps? Just a suggestion.

    Robin’s possible idea of Bill Clinton or Nelson Mandela taking in a movie, a pizza and a few beers with their chums Gerry and Marty has simply made my day.

    I remember on 13th December 2000, at the Odyssey, while Bill was addressing the bussed in, hand picked audience of our fellow citizens from across Ireland, Gerry and Marty sitting up on the rising benches to the left of Bill along with the other NI politicians, were scarcely able to sit close to one another in the same row at all civilly. It must have led to some serious tension when they met up with Bill for the movie later.

  • kensei

    Once he decides to do a deal with Sinn Fein, he jumps in with both feet. His rows with republicans are invariably about deals he feels have been broken,

    Uh – was an Irish Language Act and the Maze not agreed at St Andrews? Did members of his party – you know, the one he leads and the buck stops with – not crow about blocking these things? Is there any evidence to back up that statement, or are we generously relying on the “latterly” here?