Belfast Telegraph

After the fall... are we witnessing the return of Iris Robinson to public life?

By Malachi O'Doherty

There have been two schools of thought about Iris Robinson and her future in Northern Ireland.

One argued that she would make a slow and deftly managed comeback after the disgrace of scandal.

People who expect that outcome think public relations and advertising can work miracles.

The other view is that she was so badly tainted, so comprehensively humiliated, that she would never be able to show her face here again.

That has turned out not to be true either, as we see from the pictures of her running for charity at the Belfast Telegraph’s Runher event on Friday evening.

Clearly there is a life after ignominy and shame.

That simple fact says something about Iris, about this society and about the political and media world.

Whenever Iris fell, I was as engrossed in the story as many other journalists. I took calls from radio stations on the other side of the world looking for the full-colour version. But I often, at that time, wondered about the private Iris. I had often seen her in the shopping centre with her bucket, collecting money for charity when she might have been enjoying her leisure time.

Whatever fascination we might now have for the exposure of her love life, Iris was part of a larger world of church and charity and community that she had earned with hard work.

Then what does it say about that wider society that it still has a place for her?

It says that it is a generous and compassionate society which allows that those who have a past can have a future too.

But then we knew that from the absorption of past offenders into politics.

There is something pragmatic and easygoing in the Northern Irish attitude.

It has a temper that can lash out at those it thinks haven’t been punished enough, but it chills out in time, and accepts people for who they are.

And what does it say about the political and media world?

We will only know as the story unfolds further.

It is hard to imagine that Iris will be back in frontline politics; would she want to face the grillings that would come with an election campaign?

But that she could be a valued back-room operator or canvasser, applying her experience, that she could be an occasional commentator or interviewee on current affairs programmes gradually comes to seem less unlikely than it was when the storm broke over her.

Belfast Telegraph


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