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.