Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Robinson acted honourably. Why should he quit?

Tonight the Panorama programme on BBC television promises more revelations about the financial affairs of Iris Robinson.



However, as she has been ejected from the party, is standing down as MLA and MP and already has questions to answer following the BBC Spotlight programme, tonight’s revelations would have to be pretty explosive to make her position any worse.

The real impact of tonight’s programme could be on her husband, First Minister Peter Robinson. He is already under pressure following the exposure of his wife’s financial dealing with her teenage lover.

Now Peter Robinson is not a man who normally evokes much sympathy or empathy from people. He is too much of a cold fish, too calculating, too driven, too easy to anger to make him likeable. Many people are secretly rejoicing at the troubles which have befallen the House of Robinson.

The couple — in spite of being very effective and diligent constituency MLAs and MPs — rubbed many people up the wrong way. They always seemed a little too smug; they were making a fortune out of politics and they employed members of their own family in helping to run their constituencies. Good old fashioned envy was behind much of the sniping at the couple.

But, let us be honest, how many politicians do we really like anyway? Politics is a nasty job and politicians — following the expenses scandal — now enjoy a reputation in the public imagination as low as that of journalists or lawyers.

However, Peter Robinson’s job as First Minister and leader of the DUP should not depend on his likeability or even some people’s desire to see him taken down a peg or two.

On the facts as we know them now following the Spotlight programme, if he was guilty of anything it was a technical breach of rules which said he should have declared the £50,000 given to his wife’s lover as her behest by two property developers.

According to the evidence before us he was at most an accessory after the fact of what his wife had done. He acted honourably and swiftly in telling her to ensure the money was repaid to the donors.

He did not shop his wife to any standards authority and for anyone to suggest that he should have is nonsense. Can you name any politician who would have blown the whistle on his wife’s financial affairs?

If Peter subsequently was prepared to forgive Iris for her infidelity, a far more grievious sin in both their eyes, it proved that he loved his wife deeply.

Moralising about why he didn’t tell anyone about her financial dealings is just silly and an excuse to get the boot into him as well as his wife.

So, if he has in reality done nothing, or at least, very little wrong, why should he be ousted from the post of First Minister?

There is no doubt that the Northern Ireland Office is deeply worried about what will happen to the peace process if Peter is forced out. Shaun Woodward, the Secretary of State — I had almost forgotten he was still here — has scarcely been off the airwaves warning about the danger to devolution if the Robinson crisis deepens.

No doubt Peter will be anticipating tonight’s programme with some trepidation. If it creates more scandal around his wife, the DUP may feel that he is becoming an electoral liability.

Hell hath no fury like a group of politicians who feel their own future is being jeopardised. Look at the Labour Party at the moment. For Gordon, we might be reading Peter.

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