Pantomime Politics

Keeping the best wine to the last was not what Peter Robinson had in mind as the Christmas season drew to a close and the best political pantomime in years took to the stage, a little late but no less funny despite its lack of seasonality. Sinn Fein, in pursuit of parity of esteem, has not been willing to allow the DUP to have the silly season all to itself. It sent Mary Lou McDonald out to stumble and stagger along the airwaves so that it too could for once make a genuine claim that it is a co-equal in the ministry of something. The Ministry of Clowns might not have been agreed as part of either the Good Friday or St Andrew’s Agreement but sure it’s the peace process and most don’t seem to mind if things inside the package don’t always match up to the label.

Can Peter Robinson survive? Most people I talk to profess to think not. There is said to be huge dissatisfaction smouldering within the DUP over its leader who while once a major strategic asset is now sailing close to the wind of electoral liability. But things are not so sure. Although the DUP has considerably more talent in reserve than Sinn Fein, Robinson would still be hard to replace. The party pulled a master stroke in bringing in Arleen Foster to manage the first ministry. Robinson was able to step aside rather than step down. The party, buffeted and battered, has created space in which to regroup and consider its options. Robinson put in a solid performance in his interview in today’s Sunday Times with Liam Clarke and if nothing further emerges about irregularities of one sort or another he might well survive.

BBC Spotlight nailed Iris Robinson, easily depicting her as a crook. It laboured, however to get Peter into the dock. BBC Panorama did no better. Establishing a prima facie case means little other than ‘at first glance’ something isn’t right. The financial irregularities allegations against Peter Robinson looked weak when compared to the much more serious case made against his fellow party leader in Sinn Fein who stands accused of having covered for and promoted within the party a man he believed to be a child rapist. In fact the equality agenda meant that once the press pack snapped and bit at Robinson, it had little choice but to remove the muzzle and turn its attention towards Gerry Adams otherwise face charges of undiluted bias.

What Robinson now needs to overcome is the ridicule that his wife’s shenanigans have served up to him in US size portions. While the DUP has cleverly moved to insulate itself from ridicule ingress by creating the quarantine for Robinson to deal with it himself, the outcome is by no mean assured. Were this a serious thriller Robinson could easily weather the storm and steady the ship. But this has more of the circus than the thriller to it. A figure of controversy can continue to lead even if walking precariously and perilously if he manages to keep his balance. But a figure of ridicule who slips on every banana skin or takes every cream pie right up the face is going to have his work cut out. Forcing Iris to walk the plank by no means assures him that calm seas lie ahead once the storm is weathered. But for now the political weathervane must be blowing his way.


  1. she,s behind you ! anyway jesssuss loves ya

  2. Amazing how quickly some progress was in the works [after all the messing about] immediately the SH1T hit the fan and both party leaderships were in major trouble.
    Give them all their p45's and let the civil serpents run the wee dump at Stormont.
    Lessons for everyone on brassneckery when we saw Gerry Kelly on RTE today and he looked gobsmacked to be even asked if this was the end for Geraldo...his body language gave the impression he felt he was being addressed by a party 'nobody'..but his response was that of denial...All they have left themselves as this stage.
    Good to see Martin and Peter shook hands after all this time..lets set up the bonfires and ws all worth it in the end lol.