Jesus loves you more than you will know

Right, the BBCNI Spotlight special on the Robinson family has just finished. Here is a précis of the story.

Firstly, Mr X has been named. This was Kirk McCambley, who I’d not heard of, although his late father Billy was a well-known butcher in east Belfast. Billy was a close friend of Iris Robinson, and after his death Iris took a maternal interest in young Kirk. This relationship slowly morphed into a sexual relationship. At the time Iris was 59 and Kirk was 19 – if you’ll forgive me a moment of levity, coo coo ca-choo, Mrs Robinson! The sexual relationship lasted some months before ending acrimoniously.

This, so far, is all consistent with what the Robinson family had revealed. It is also well established that Iris has been quite seriously ill – there is no question over her mental health problems, only over how convenient the timing of her resignation was. And this is the crux of the matter – the Spotlight team were interested mainly in following the money.

This revolves around young Kirk going into business for himself as a café proprietor, something he’s made a bit of a success of. This success is all the more striking given that he had no business experience beyond working in his dad’s butcher shop, and no money behind him. This is where it starts to look a bit fishy, and the interviews with Kirk McCambley and with Iris’ former political advisor Selwyn Black raise some awkward questions.

The first thing was the matter of Kirk winning the lease at the Shaw’s Bridge restoration project. On the most charitable interpretation, this is Iris wanting to give Kirk a leg up and letting him know of an upcoming opportunity. However, the lease was in the gift of Castlereagh Borough Council, the personal fiefdom of the Robinson family, and it doesn’t look as if Alderman Iris Robinson declared an interest.

The other big issue was Kirk’s lack of startup capital. By his account, Iris sorted that for him by soliciting two cheques of £25,000 each from two prominent property developers, Ken Campbell and the late Fred Fraser. Kirk says that, on handing him the fifty grand, she then asked for a cut of five grand cash in hand, which would constitute a pecuniary interest in Kirk’s business project. Then, when their relationship ended, she asked him for the remaining £45,000 back, the money to be split half for herself, which she would then forward on to Ken Campbell, and the other half to the Dundonald church she attends, where Peter Robinson’s sister is the pastor. Again, there is no sign of a declaration of interest.

A picture was painted of quite an intense period of a few months between the end of the affair and Iris’ breakdown and suicide attempt, punctuated by negotiations with Kirk about the money. At some point Peter discovered the financial imbroglio and took charge, carrying out quite a complicated juggling act – returning the money to Mr Campbell and to the Fraser estate; keeping Iris’ behaviour quiet; and keeping his own hands scrupulously clean. Peter is a sharp customer, and knows the rules for public representatives. It helps that Iris’ statement keeps the blame squarely on her side of the fence.

So, that was the gist of the programme, and we await to see what the DUP have to say about it. But what does it mean politically?

The first thing to remember is that the north is a small place. Politicians and business people know each other very well. There are lots of informal links, and especially in the fundamentalist community it’s quite common for business deals to be concluded on a handshake, without the need for anything so vulgar as a contract. The only way you can guard against corruption is to have government transparency and a press that does its job. On both counts the north has been lacking.

The second thing is an important thing to understand in terms of how evangelical Protestants think. Although sexual morality is important, the sex thing is not nearly as politically important as the money thing. Lots of people, outraged by what Iris said about homosexuals, will be enjoying a little schadenfreude, but there aren’t many of those people in the DUP. (There is of course a thriving gay subculture in the DUP, but it’s very heavily closeted.) Iris having committed the sin of fornication does not matter as much as how she handles it, and a penitent Iris asking for God’s forgiveness is textbook. It’s a mistake to think that fundamentalists are intolerant of human frailty – they assume sin to be a fact of life and are more interested in how people deal with their sinful behaviour, whether or not they repent it.

No, the money issue is the important one, in that it has the potential to damage the DUP. What did for Big Ian, if you’ll remember, was the relationship between Ian Jr and Seymour Sweeney. That the Paisleys would lobby for a local businessman is what you’d expect from elected representatives, particularly those belonging to the Developers’ Unionist Party. But add Junior’s lobbying to the involvement of Seymour Sweeney in building Junior’s holiday cottage, and his further involvement in the purchase of the enormous DUP advice centre in Ballymena – Junior couldn’t be shown to have engaged in corrupt practices, but it all started to smell a bit bad. Given popular attitudes towards the Swish Family Robinson, one cannot count on the public to cut them more slack than they cut the Paisleys.

From this point of view, and this is something Peter Robinson understands very well, rules on disclosure of interests are not only there to protect the public. They also protect public representatives by keeping them relatively honest. Iris may not have actively swung political favours for the pecuniary benefit of her fancy man, but the perception that she may have done is still really really bad. And however scrupulously Peter has managed to keep his own hands clean, he is so closely associated in the public mind with Iris that he will have a tricky tightrope to walk.

In the end, I suspect that it will be a question of honesty, and whether he’s able to convince the public that he has behaved honestly. To return to the Adams affair, the fundamental problem for Gerry is not that he wasn’t shopping his brother to the RUC when his organisation was at war with the RUC; nor is it that he kept the issue quiet during delicate points in the peace process. Gerry may well have had good reasons for keeping his family issues quiet, and we’ve never really expected him to be searingly candid about anything. The problem for Gerry is being caught out lying and obfuscating when there is no compelling reason for him to do so. Peter Robinson will have that example to bear in mind.

33 Comments

  1. sonofstan said,

    January 8, 2010 at 12:36 am

    (There is of course a thriving gay subculture in the DUP, but it’s very heavily closeted.)

    Once again, one of your parenthetical comments opens out onto a whole world…. how do you know this? what do they do? who calls who ‘Big Man’?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      January 8, 2010 at 12:58 am

      You wouldn’t believe some of the things that go on at the Twelfth field. Bacchanalia isn’t in it.

      • Joe said,

        January 8, 2010 at 11:56 am

        Funny that. I was told once that I wouldn’t believe some of the things that went on in the loos in the Phoenix Park during the Pope’s Mass.

      • WorldbyStorm said,

        January 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm

        Is there really? Bloody hell.

  2. Joe Ryan said,

    January 8, 2010 at 1:12 am

    Are there issues under declaration of interests for Peter Robinson? Whilehis wife may not have declared an interest is there under NI or UK ethics legisaltion a requirement to notify spouses interests? Clearly for Spotlight he was aware of the matter by December 2008 and could ther have been a requirement to declare same in 2009?
    There are serious issues here, I cannot get over the similarities between the Robinsons and the Dig Out interviews of our own scoundrel!

  3. Daphne said,

    January 8, 2010 at 8:56 am

    “Kirk is not to be trusted in these matters. He is a violent and sexually deranged being from the fourth dimension.”

    [/mightyboosh]

  4. harry monro said,

    January 8, 2010 at 9:37 am

    “It’s a mistake to think that fundamentalists are intolerant of human frailty – they assume sin to be a fact of life and are more interested in how people deal with their sinful behaviour, whether or not they repent it.”
    Up to a point but underneath there are double standerds for men and women, particularly women who fail their “maternal” feelings. It seems that following sin she did not head for the stool of repentance but tried to take vengance on her lover (all very Old Testament though I think only kings ever get forgiven for it). Where Peter’s problems lie are with what he did when he knew, did he act like a good patriach and bring her back to the fold or did he tolerate her denial of the full extent of her sins? Fundementalists shouldn’t let all this liberal tosh about mental health get in the way of being judgmental about her sins and her road back to salvation; they should see it being about sin. Covetousness is also a major sin, especially to the not well of fundementalists (except in the US of course).
    However speaking as an athiest Prod I think the old religion collapsed when it abandoned predestination and adoped all this wishy washy universal salvation.

    • Donnie said,

      April 11, 2010 at 6:45 am

      Harry,
      You seem well educated. Jesus loves all and does not ask you to check your brain at the door, even if it seems that us fundamentalists ask it of you. Take a year, not too long given the stakes, and read the new testament. You may have done it already, just this time read it with the idea that there is a God who loves you and wants to tell you what he has in store for you and the world. As hard as it seems, put all of your pre-judgments down and read. Our fail-able human nature is all about perceptions. When we read we generally process everything through our predetermined world view. I am as guilty as the next, if not more so. Try hard to put that aside and see what you might learn. God bless you, truly.
      Donnie

  5. Madam Miaow said,

    January 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Coo-coo-kerching.

    ” … they assume sin to be a fact of life and are more interested in how people deal with their sinful behaviour, whether or not they repent it.”

    Actually, that sounds like my kinda religion.

    I look forward to a ripe old age and the warmth of a young dude. Or several.

    • Liam said,

      January 8, 2010 at 10:47 am

      From what I’ve been told there’s also a thriving gay sub culture at the Peter Robinson leisure centre. That’s irony.

  6. Sean said,

    January 8, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I wonder if Peter has put slugger otoole on retainer as mick seems to be doing his best to white wash Robbo’s involvement in the whole affair

  7. robert said,

    January 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    maybe there’s a third religion rising in NI – Protestant, Catholic and Gay.

  8. skidmarx said,

    January 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Her claim to have made one suicide attempt without any supporting evidence wuld bot be enough to convince a social security doctor that she was entitled to sickness benefits, so it seems reasonable to speculate that she is making the whole thing up to avoid questions.

  9. Neil said,

    January 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Is it just my impression or do things really get extra weired in Ireland, North and South, when a recession is on?
    Serious question.

    • Tom Griffin said,

      January 8, 2010 at 2:59 pm

      Perhaps it’s the Warren Buffet thing, “It’s only when the tide goes out, you learn who’s been swimming naked.”

      • ejh said,

        January 8, 2010 at 6:03 pm

        Is Mr Buffett under the impression that people swim in a vertical position?

        (He might have said “bathing”, I suppose, but the “swimming” version outnumbers “bathing” ten to one on Google hits.)

  10. January 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    […] only thing to worry about is what effect destroying Peter Robinson’s political career will have on Northern Ireland. For all the Assembly’s ineffectiveness, handing it over to […]

  11. harry monro said,

    January 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Not being in the North has some handicaps – I didn’t realise that neither of the Robinsons come from the majority tradition, Presbyterianism, among Prods and aren’t even members of the same church. This may well give him much more wriggle room, as s/s correctly noted earlier. The Pentecostal tradition is more forgiving, though what Iris’s Free Methodists are is confusing me they surely aren’t from the US Holiness tradition are they? I always liked the Holiness lot because of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the non racism of many of their white members so I just can’t imagine Iris being connected with anything remotely radical no matter how distantly.

    • sonofstan said,

      January 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm

      It appears they are – google ‘Free Methodist’, open the Wiki entry, follow them to the UK, and there’s Iris’s Light ‘n’ Life church listed

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        January 8, 2010 at 8:18 pm

        Peter, of course, is an Elim Pentecostalist. As is Sammy Wilson, interestingly. But fundie churches are an open market, and it’s not uncommon to have members of the same family attending different ones. In days of yore, people in places like the Shankill Road would go from one church to another on a Sunday.

        This is something you notice in the countryside. A Catholic village will have one enormous church and a dozen pubs. A Protestant village will have one pub and a dozen churches.

  12. harpymarx said,

    January 8, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    “On the most charitable interpretation, this is Iris wanting to give Kirk a leg up and letting him know of an upcoming opportunity.”

    Ooo err, leg up, leg over… Ok, needed say to that.

    But think you are right about the money though the hypocrisy and Mrs Robinson is just so schadenfreude,. When bigoted fundies bang on about morality, desperate to keep up a facade, you kinda know there’s something ‘ungodly’ lurking beneath…..

  13. January 8, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    […] Have been mulling over whether to post about Iris Robinson. The latest shockers do rather sound like a Jackie Collins romp com, ingredients of sex, dodgy financial dealings and religion (Jesus loves you more than you will know!). […]

  14. prianikoff said,

    January 9, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Temptation must have beckoned every time Wee Kirk handed Mrs Robinson a pound of sausages. The 50 K bung could just be the tip of the iceberg.
    I wonder what she was spending on HRT and Botox treatment?

  15. Northside Socialist said,

    January 9, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Maybe the gombeens in Fianna Fail do have a future in the North, bungs from property developers, corruption of young people, covering up of scandals, ludicrous denials, bigots seeking forgiveness and understanding, the corruption and arrogance of elected officials, nepotism and kleptocracy. It will be perfect for them…..

  16. David Nettleton said,

    January 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Not many 59 year-old women look as good as Iris Robinson but it appears that he dumped her rather than she got bored with him. Can this be confirmed?

  17. Madam Miaow said,

    January 9, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Looks like Iris almost qualifies as a “cougar”.
    http://madammiaow.blogspot.com/2010/01/st-stephen-baldwin-and-sleep-cougaring.html

    • harry monro said,

      January 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

      thanks for the update on the Bladwins m/m, I’m afraid they might be the first firm evidence for the eugenicists.
      So Iris, should she want to maintain her lifestyle, may have to move to Hollywood and join the new Courtney Cox series?

      • Madam Miaow said,

        January 10, 2010 at 11:55 am

        You may have hit upon something, Harry. Instead of slitting her wrists she could always get herself a PR and head for tinseltown.

        All together,
        Always look on the bright side of life, ba-dum, ba-dum-di-dum-di-dum …

  18. Madam Miaow said,

    January 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    OK, Harry and Splinty. We have a plan.
    http://madammiaow.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-would-jesus-say-iris-robinson.html

    • harry monro said,

      January 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      Excellent m/m, I’m not sure she even has ditch the anti –gay banter, she can do a Carry Prejean – attack gays, do fundamentalist rallies and release sex tapes (though as one of her agents I’m not saying she has to do that but it has helped some careers). Of course you are right there will be more money if she dances with Ellen and hugs and says she sees now how god loves gays. If the Butchers Boy is now a gay icon this will help.
      I’m sure some might see our cackling as heartless, at the expense of someone who tried suicide and may have been a victim in her past (this is debated at Slugger). On the “suicide” attempt I’m a bit nonplussed that no ambulance was called and after a nap she was out and about; but maybe I’m an unsympathetic swine. Even being a victim in the past though does not give folk the right to dodge responsibility for the pain they inflict on others as Iris has done (blimey any more of the sermonizing and I’ll be invited to the Martyrs Memorial).
      Back to the cash, if Hollywood won’t take her she’ll have to try San Fernando Valley, people on the ground in the North will have to say whether she can market herself as a MILF of a GILF. After a spot of this she can return to the bosom of the church and make more money on the repentance thingy.

      • Madam Miaow said,

        January 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm

        Yeah, human sympathy for the suicide attempt which I can believe given the level of hypocrisy and repression she’s bought into and profited from all her life. But I offer hope and salvation and a chink of light. Once she’s over the nightmare — and it will pass — she’ll do well. Unlike some gay people who have continuing homophobia to deal with.

  19. alex bloyd said,

    January 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    i think this is a big joke .. and peter should be left out off this i can tell u he is a very good man and the fact is i needed his help and he give me his help…. and i won my case . every one needs a 2nd chance but so far peter is in the clear … go look at jerry adams

    • harry monro said,

      January 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm

      Now its been decades since I was in the North, where I lived they said you could put a donkey with unionist on it and it would win, the DUP obviously changed that in one way, but in another they put up more than their fair share of donkeys.
      Now if Peter helped you get justice, fair play, but honestly thats what I think they should all do for the money we pay them. But whether its Dublin, Stormont, Edinburgh or Westminster most of them collect their pay checks, feather their own nests and ignore us.
      For all my bad taste jokes s/s is right, it’s the money we should follow, and Peter seems to have helped cover up for his wife. And that’s a reason he should go for me. However SF are talking of bringing down the house of cards not over corruption, or that the DUP is against comprehensive education, or is against abortion or homophobic. What worries Gerry is the equality of the Irish language and policing – is he that stupid that he thinks devolved policing will stop cops framing working class people or giving them a good kicking or help break strikes. Of course there are skeletons in the SF cupboard but that doesn’t mean Peter and Iris should not be ejected from the gravy train.
      By the way all this has peaked my interest in “regeneration” and corruption in Belfast, yet I don’t find much about it. Any suggestions people for reading?


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