Did the spooks have a hand in bringing down our First Family? The Phoenix thinks they might have done…

If you don’t get the Phoenix regularly – and you really should – the latest issue has some stories that make it well worth picking up. As a connoisseur of western politics I’m particularly interested in the reports on page 10 from the feuding warlord clans of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (aka Donegal). But what’s really caught my eye is the report on page 7 of the ongoing travails of the Robinson family. Goldhawk detects the spoor of MI5:

They had plenty of Robinson material to work with. On the sex front alone, they would have known that Iris was having intimate meetings in secluded spots in the back of the former Shah of Iran’s blue armoured Mercedes. Some of Peter’s “business friends” had bought it as a present for him.

This is true. I kid you not, Peter is the proud owner of the Shah’s motor, which has kind of a nice piquancy. What we really need, of course, is a local analogue of Ryszard Kapuściński to write a portrait of these fascinating characters.

Long before Iris was leaving black lingerie on the four-poster in her chandeliered bedroom for Suzanne Breen to note in the Sunday Tribune, MI5 would have logged in their Registry details of her drives around London in her MG sports car with a fun-loving DUP politician.

Crikey! Did I say Kapuściński? Maybe he would have to co-author it with Jackie Collins.

Indeed, someone in that 400-strong army of spies based at Palace Barracks, Holywood, may have also paid attention to more boring property transactions involving an office block in Newtownards, presently being investigated by the Serious Organised Crime Unit, according to a statement pointedly issued by the PSNI.

It’s long been rumoured that senior paramilitaries on both sides of the fence were involved in property deals in certain places outside the immediate conflict zone, of which Ards is one. This is to say nothing of the intimate relationships between councillors and developers. I tell you, if there’s a serious investigation of dodgy property deals in the north, there will be an awful lot of red faces, and not only in the DUP.

Goldhawk concludes with a significant reference to “the enigmatic evangelical Dublin preacher turned RAF officer-chaplain turned gay-converting psychiatrist Selwyn Black”, and by speculating that, with Robbo putting a stymie on the policing and justice negotiations before Christmas, the spooks decided to do the first minister over.

Well, perhaps. The record of spookery in the north of Ireland is such that it’s foolish to ever rule it out. I would add a caveat, though, that one of the things bringing forward the transmission of Spotlight – the timing of which the Phoenix finds so significant – was a level of discreet murmuring from quarters not a million miles removed from Sinn Féin about an impending scandal involving the DUP leader. One may further speculate that some republicans might have both felt frustrated at the DUP’s behaviour in the P&J talks, and simultaneously anxious to deflect attention from Gerry Adams’ family problems. (And that’s without even getting into possible spookery in the Adams saga.)

In the end, I’m not sure the provenance matters that much. Norn Iron is a small and incestuous place, where the proverbial dogs on the street retail inside stories far too scandalous to make it into print. Many, even most, of them may be apocryphal, but it holds true that nothing in this place stays secret very long.

Rud eile: I notice from my Roman Martyrology that today is the feast day of St Francis de Sales, patron saint of Catholic writers – and, by extension, Catholic bloggers too. It’s a good time then to give a shout out to Red Maria, in the hope of much entertaining polemic to come.


  1. Tom Griffin said,

    January 30, 2010 at 12:45 am

    “the enigmatic evangelical Dublin preacher turned RAF officer-chaplain turned gay-converting psychiatrist Selwyn Black”,”

    He is a very interesting figure but was he actually the gay-converting psychiatrist? I seem to remember a debate on Slugger that concluded he wasn’t.

  2. Gonzo said,

    January 30, 2010 at 3:44 am

    No it was Dr Paul Miller. The Shah’s car was mentioned in Iris’s own biography and mentioned by Davy Gordon in the Tele last week. IIRC Ken Campbell denied donating towards its purchase. The only unanswered question is how – according to Stephen Green in the NOTW – MI5 got its hands on Selwyn’s mobile just before the scandal broke. They allegedly returned it to him, presumably before he spoke to the BBC. Sounds unlikely but there was a quote from Black in the story IIRC that didn’t deny it.

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      January 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm

      No, I didn’t think he was the psychiatrist. As you often find with the Phoenix, the “intriguing but not necessarily 100% reliable” category.

  3. ejh said,

    January 30, 2010 at 10:53 am

    ….and presumably of Catholic Church websites in general. Meanwhile, in holy water news

  4. John Meehan said,

    February 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    The Phoenix is making a fool of itself.

    Who and what is bringing down the Robinsons?

    Answer : The Robinsons Themselves.

    An elaboration :

    Iris Robinson’s corrupt property deals and her hypocritical “say one thing” “do another” political/personal morality – Promoting Bible-Bashing Fundamentalist Christianity, outrageously calling gay people “an abomination” – and doing another (her “aduterous” relationships) – in shot,

    The actions of the Robinsons themselves are bringing them down.

    Selwyn Black clearly explained his motives on the BBC Spotlight Programme, and they were entirely honourable. I have no patience with commentators who target the whistleblower.

    Has the Phoenix asked a more relevant question about the British security forces regarding the child-abuse allegations against Liam Adams, the brother of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams?

    Áine Tyrell’s mother says that when she brought the allegations against Liam Adams to the attention of Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1987 she withdrew the complaint because the state forces wanted to turn her into an informer.

    From that point on the state forces were in a position to blackmail Liam Adams.

    Did they take that opportunity?

    Furthermore ; since we know that the state security forces knew about these allegations from 1987 onwards, it is significant that they kept the information out of the public domain.

    Here in one very big motive : the state was seeking an internal settlement to the Northern Ireland Problem – crowned with the success of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Gerry Adams was an ally of the Dublin and London governments in this endeavour from 1987 onwards.

  5. John Meehan said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Two interesting stories in today’s irish News :

    1. Big Front page story : “Planner’s extraordinary note on Robinson-backed scheme” – so far other media do not appear to have followed up.

    2. Liam Adams Case : “European warraqnt “still not executed” – again, other media do not appear to have followed up.

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