Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Analysis: Will the DUP stand by Peter Robinson?

Almost everyone outside the DUP seems convinced that Peter Robinson will do very well to last the week.

It's the political consequences from those Spotlight revelations that matter most.

There are specific issues over what Mr Robinson should or should not have done on learning that his wife had obtained £50,000 from two property developers.

Then there is the wider issue of the impact of all the disclosures on the DUP brand — with a General Election looming.

The party lost some of its heartland over the 2007 power-sharing deal with Sinn Fein.

A controversy over links between the Paisleys and a north coast developer clouded its first year in office.

And the expenses revelations of last year brought more pain.

But the Iris Robinson affair is something else.

A party with deep roots in stern evangelical Ulster Protestantism must be reeling from the lurid and truly shocking details.

It should not be forgotten that Mrs Robinson was a significant DUP figure.

She was a member of its parliamentary party, a poll-topper in Strangford and one of its Assembly committee chairs up until last summer.

She and her husband were presented to the public as a team. It seems naive to think that he can now escape the toxic fallout.

The danger for the DUP is that this story will keep running and running.

Meanwhile, the stalemate over devolution of policing and justice is also destabilising politics.

Sinn Fein are hardly likely to invest much effort in sealing a deal with the DUP leader, if they think he is not going to be there much longer, or will not have the strength to take his party with him.

The First Minister's authority is a real issue.

This serious, private man and his wife are now the subject of countless lurid text message jokes flying round Northern Ireland.

DUP big hitters have a tough call to make.

The party is compared to a family and there will be sibling-like instinct to rally round, particularly against the media.

But they must be aware that they are in a serious crisis, with both the future of devolution and General Election votes at stake.

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