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Robinsons Miscellany


Now tarnished - golden couple Iris and Peter before the scandal was broken on TV

Now tarnished - golden couple Iris and Peter before the scandal was broken on TV


Now tarnished - golden couple Iris and Peter before the scandal was broken on TV

Our regional conversation has changed. The Robinson Affair has the potential even to change language as we use it.


Cashback is not just something you get from Tesco's now. It has resonances of the little backhander that Iris took out of the fifty grand she had raised for Kirk McCambley.


God is no longer just the creator of the Universe and the solemn, long suffering father who listens to your prayers. He is apparently the arbiter of tactics in even the most intimate exchanges, such as Iris Robinson had with her advisor Selwyn Black.


And one wonders what God will have made of Selwyn. After all, many of the texted conversations which he leaked to the media were three corner discussions including Himself.Indeed, God might be a safer mentor or adviser for the modern politician with secrets, for, whatever else the Lord God of Heaven and Earth gets up to, at least He doesn't blab.

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One wonders if Selwyn will go down in history as one of the great whistleblowers, like Clive Ponting. Ponting is remembered for leaking documents about sightings of the General Belgrano on the day before Margaret Thatcher ordered it sunk.

One wonders now if he would rather be remembered for his historical books than for that one moment of glory.

Selwyn will always, no matter what else he achieves in life, be the man who showed us those texts.

Perhaps he should just go and write the book now.


Politics has become fun in a way that would have seemed wrong just a little while ago for we have been under a solemn onus to wish the peace process well. Now, when it is in jeopardy again, the elements of scandal are just so downright interesting that we can't stop talking about them.

And it is not just ourselves; it is the world's media. They are phoning local journalists for the titbits, and when they try to steer the topic round to the political difficulties that have arisen from the Affair, well, they just get bored.

They knew that Northern Ireland's settlement was frail. No story there then.

Sex and Unionists

But what about the peripheral questions like Protestants and Sex? The Protestant and, particularly, the evangelical communities in Northern Ireland have always seemed the more grounded and serious.We think of ladies in prim dresses and job lot hats making their ways to church on a Sunday mornings, reporting their diligent housekeeping to God and standing in the pews to listen to lessons from St Paul about how to serve their husbands and preserve their purity.

But now that we know about Iris and the strange fact that she somehow reconciled her sexual adventure with God's will, seeking to redirect some of the money to her husband’s sister’s church, you have to start wondering about all those other devout and fundamentalist women among us. Have they all got toyboys?

Could it be that unionists are — well, hotter than the rest of us?

Even within the domestic confines of the Paisley family there has always been a hit that a flame of passion still burned steadily.

We have no nationalist or republican evidence of amorous love. We hear nothing about Colette or Bernie, the wives of Gerry and Martin.

No public kisses.

Perhaps that's for the best: the repeated image of Iris and Peter pecking at each other's lips makes them look as if they are trying out something new.

But isn't that intriguing, given the stereotype of the Catholic as more playful, that all their wives — and lovers — are in purda?

Well, Pat Hume had a public profile for a time, but pretty much as the quiet strength behind the moody man.

Compare that with Daphne Trimble, who was in the scrum with David when he was being jostled in Portadown and who now even has her own Facebook page. Which is very brave, given that it was the digital record of her exchanges with Selwyn that undid Iris.


And to think that people have been arguing that digital communication would leave us with a much scanter record of the past. Historians have been bemoaning the fact that no one writes letters anymore. Well, Iris was writing texts the way others write letters and emails and the automatic filing system inside Selwyn's Iphone organised them all very neatly and simply — for posterity. The Affair is a reminder to us all that any text we have ever sent may be sitting on someone's phone now, available for sharing.


One of the most remarkable aspects of this story has been the sudden willingness of Peter Robinson to present his vulnerability to us.

Here was the most daunting man in the country, the most cerebral and logical, showing us that he has feelings.

We have seen some emotion from him in the past, but usually just anger as he barked back at a journalist or that little leakage of smugness from the mind of a man who has just said something very clever and knows it.

Were any of us prepared for the softer side of Peter? Are we, as a society, ready for it?


Could we bear to see Mark Durkan weeping, or Gerry Adams?

Gerry, to be fair, beat Peter to the post as the first local politician to share embarrassing family secrets, when he disclosed that his brother was a paedophile, but Peter had the edge in terms of plausible feeling, well expressed.

I certainly wouldn't want to see Reg Empey or David Ford in tears. I don't think I could bear that.

Certainly it seems that the journalists who recorded Peter Robinson were simply discombobulated.

Peter's own stress was hardly less that of the four journalists invited into his study to see him fight back his tears. Some say they didn't know where to look. Is this the new Northern Ireland, in which a journalist is best carrying a hankie in case some previously surly politician goes weepy?


The other mystery in this story is the other man, Kirk. He has been accessible to the media for pictures, but he is not saying much.

Some of the speculation on him has unkindly suggested that he traded his affections for material advantage, but he has that doe-eyed look of a boyband singer, so we are inclined to like him, aren't we?

But why did he sleep with Iris? Who made the first move?

The Spotlight programme, which might have explored this question, left it out, but that is the one concern that we are all dwelling on.

Surely Darragh McIntyre, the reporter, could have brought us a morsel of detail at least; something about where they went, or even if the romantic ambience of the tow path in evening light worked its magic on them, as it has on so many others.


Much of the derision, however, overlooks the fact that Iris is a well preserved woman. And surely it is good news to men and women everywhere that the libido may tickle and hunger well past menopause.

This week the political stability of the province is at risk because of the Robinson Affair.

The DUP now has to agonise over whether Peter Robinson is still an electoral asset.

Peter argues that he is legally safe, but that may not be the deciding issue. It is not the legality of the question that the public is discussing.

That is the least fascinating element of the Robinson Affair.

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