On YouTube you can now watch the entire BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight documentary special on Iris Robinson. It’s embedded below in three parts and is linked here – part one - part two – part three. With thanks to Slugger O’Toole. It’s also on iPlayer here.
The Spotlight programme really is a stunning piece of regional broadcast journalism which deserves to win a clutch of awards. Well done BBC! And well done reporter Darragh MacIntyre, Researcher Imedla Lynch, Assistant Editor Gwyneth Jones and Producer Mary McKeagney. The fact that the programme has, it seems, not elicited any threats of legal action is a breathtaking testament to its high quality. However, the programme should be viewed alongside the response from Peter Robinson as carried in this blunt interview with Eamonn Mallie here, again on Slugger O’Toole.
I am particularly glad that Peter Robinson has comprehensively answered the question about events on 2nd March 2009:
Mallie: “There is a concern you abandoned your wife in her hour of need”
Robinson: “Let me make it very clear my wife attempted to take her life about midnight on the first of March. These events are events which hurt and caused me very considerable pain. I resent very much the attempt by you to make me the person who is somehow responsible because that is the core of the question.”
Mallie: “That is not the core. Where were you at the time.?”
Robinson: “I don’t need any reminder of the question. I heard the question. I will answer the question. The Spotlight team exposed their own bias in the way they treated that element of the programme. The particular piece that they showed of the Assembly even though all of the other questions asked were serious in a serious vein and answered in a serious vein – they chose to take one of the questions that was asked in a more jovial lighthearted manner and that was answered in a more jovial lighthearted manner..”
“Let me tell you what happened during the course of that day. Iris,around midnight attempted to take her own life. Along with family members we ensured as far as lay within us that we removed any drugs from her body. We ensured on medical advice that she kept awake. She became more lucid in conversation we had with her.
“We kept her up during the whole of the night talking. We were then given medical advice that we should let her sleep. After she was asleep and in care of members of her family I went on to the Assembly. During that period of time the advice was given that she as a precaution should be taken into hospital. As soon as I heard that I went directly to the hospital.”
However, there remain questions about Peter Robinson’s involvement and, these are outlined by Brian Walker:
…why didn’t he (Peter Robinson) insist that Iris tell him all about it when he “overheard her” making arrangements to pay back the money – weeks before the full breakdown and when she seems to have been able to take his prompts? Why did he not ask Selwyn Black all about it? Assuming he heard the names to whom the money was to be repaid, why did not alarm bells begin to ring loudly over possible conflict of interest even if the cheques weren’t made out to her?
I just think of my own married life. If I was carrying around cheques for £25,000, or even £500 for that matter, my wife would know about it.
My guess is, particularly bearing in mind the tight-lippedness of leavers from a DUP senior meeting last night and whispers this morning, that Peter Robinson will not be First Minister of Northern Ireland for very much longer. His problem is political, not legal - as opined by Mick Fealty yesterday. And we should remember that Iain Paisley Jr and Henry MacLeish, first Minister of Scotland, left ministerial office after being engulfed in imbroglios of similar (or perhaps even lesser) magnitude than Robinsongate. Peter Robinson’s wife has had her membership of the DUP terminated. An hour ago, the scrupulously fair Eamonn Mallie tweeted:
Events are again gathering momentum. The well being of the DUP party is what matters to many of those politians (sic) facing into an election
But how the ensuing mess, left behind by Robinson, gets sorted out is anyone’s guess. Not for the first time I hear myself saying: God help the good people of Northern Ireland!
BBC Spotlight Special on Iris Robinson – Part One