Well, Iris Robinson’s excommunication expulsion from the DUP has now been confirmed. That also leaves three elected offices she’ll be relinquishing. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, there will be no by-election for the Stormont vacancy – Peter Robinson, as party leader, will simply nominate a successor. There probably won’t be a by-election for her Westminster seat this close to a general election, which should occasion sighs of relief in the DUP – although it takes only one mischievous MP to table a writ in the Commons. And there will be a by-election for her seat on Castlereagh council, unless the council can unanimously agree a co-option, which seems unlikely. The DUP will be facing a torrid general election in any case, and won’t want any additional complications.
Today’s Sunday Tribune leads with more allegations against Iris Robinson – links up when the site is updated – although the Turbine makes the basic schoolboy error of going for the sex angle. I know that’s what sells papers, but further stories about Iris’ sex life only have the potential to damage Iris, who’s out of public life now and hasn’t even been seen in public for weeks. If you want to cause discomfort to the DUP, as I’ve been saying all along, you follow the money. A big investigation into local government corruption is something nobody in the northern political class, particularly the DUP, wants.
In terms of the peace process, Proconsul Woodward has come out batting strongly for Peter. There are noises from the PSF corner, on the other hand, threatening to collapse the Assembly if the devolution of policing and justice isn’t agreed this week. Obviously the Shinners have been deeply annoyed by the statement of DUP kingmaker Lord Morrow that the issue won’t be agreed within the lifetime of this Assembly. Given that P&J is an issue that’s important to the party rather than the electoral base – it isn’t something that’s inspiring mass rallies in Dunville Park – it remains to be seen whether they are willing to pull the plug on the “indigenous deal”, or are just using the DUP crisis to chance their arms. On their past record, I’d guess the latter.
Meanwhile, the other Assembly parties are pushing for Peter to make a statement at Stormont on his position, where he could have to answer some questions on what he knew and when. There are also ominous noises off from Jim Allister, who has more than most to gain from the scandal. Suffice it to say, I was talking to a Traditional Unionist supporter yesterday, and he was cackling maniacally like Amanda in Total Wipeout. I suspect he had been non-stop for the last lot of days.
Elsewhere on the blogs, Alan details his FOI travails with Castlereagh council, and notes a tie-in to the Lock Keeper’s Cottage, while Turgon gives a crash course in fundamentalist thinking on repentance and forgiveness.