Matters amiss in Robinson affair

The most extraordinary revelation of last Thursday night’s BBC Spotlight programme on Iris and Peter Robinson was the conduct of Peter Robinson hours after, according to him, his wife threatened to kill herself.

On the morning of March 1, 2008,he left his wife at home, without medical attention, and in a condition that required her immediate hospitalisation once doctors arrived. He went into the chamber at Stormont and was jocular and relaxed.

It isn’t as if Peter Robinson is normally adept at putting a good face on things. Look at his performance in front of the cameras last Wednesday night. He was devastated - and couldn’t hide it about his wife’s infidelity, it seems.

But why was there was no appearance of devastation, or even disappointment, when he was at the dispatch box at Stormont a few hours after he allegedly first found out about the infidelity?

Another bizarre feature of this is the absence of Iris Robinson herself from the public eye, while her husband gives TV interviews about her extramarital sex life. I do not understand why he had to speak about that at all, since his wife (we are told) had made a full disclosure about this in a written statement before he gave the TV interviews.

We are told that she is seriously ill with depression. If so, how could she have framed such carefully-constructed statements of such consequence to her life in the last few weeks - one announcing her withdrawal from politics, the other acknowledging an affair?

If she is in the depths of depression, could she have made a considered voluntary decision to issue these statements, even if they were drafted by someone else? And, incidentally, who drafted them? Who got her to issue them?

Back to March 1,20 08, the morning she disclosed her affair to Peter Robinson and allegedly tried to kill herself.

What was so grave about her condition that required immediate hospitalisation? If her hospitalisation was so urgent, how come an ambulance was not called in the early hours of the morning?

Peter Robinson says she tried to kill herself around 1am. How did he not notice the need for urgent medical attention, given that, by 9am, after he had left the house, she was rushed to hospital on the say-so of doctors who had come to the house by that stage?

And a further point. The Robinson family had difficulty, we are told, contacting their family doctor. Yet when Iris Robinson’s adviser, Selwyn Black, arrived on the scene, he immediately contacted a locum doctor who arrived shortly afterwards. How was it that Peter Robinson did not do that himself, after failing to make contact with the family doctor?

It isn’t at all clear what role Black, the whistleblower, played in this affair.

Black is a psychiatrist (according to the BBC website), was a Methodist minister in Dublin, and spent ten years as a military chaplain with the Royal Air Force.

It is not clear how someone with this background came to be an adviser to Iris Robinson, even in her role on the Stormont health committee. According to Black, many of the tasks he undertook had nothing at all to do with the Stormont health committee.

Wouldn’t you think a psychiatrist would have perceived that Iris Robinson was suffering from a mental illness and needed help?

Wouldn’t you think he would have advised her against involvement in crackpot schemes with 19-year-old Kirk McCambley? Wouldn’t you imagine he would have perceived that her involvement with this young lad had gone beyond maternal concern for his welfare, and that she was acting destructively? Yet Black went along with arranging (or not arranging) for the transfers of money to do with this young lad, and with bizarre instructions concerning a Presbyterian church.

Then Black comes across her obviously in a very distressed state on March 1,2 008, her husband having departed.

While, commendably, he arranges medical attention for her, he does not follow through with other arrangements to protect her against herself - and, possibly, against others.

Instead, he goes to the BBC, with his mobile phone full of text messages, and tells all, including all the texts that he had received from Iris Robinson on a confidential basis. By then, he must have known that the woman was in a poor mental state.

He told Spotlight he felt angry he had been ‘‘drawn into that situation’’ (ie the irregularities concerning loans),but he now felt sorry for her.

And what was the huge corruption he and the BBC were revealing: that a woman, who clearly was and is unwell, had engaged in improper financial transactions, almost certainly because of infatuation with a young lad?

Isn’t the real story here about the neglect of a mentally ill person, whose husband had left her in a distressed state at home, urgently in need of medical attention, while he went into the Stormont chamber to trade jokes with other Assembly members, and while others, stood by as this ill woman engaged in self-destructive conduct?

There is more to this.