Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The slightly bizarre world of Northern Ireland's incoming 'first family'

Suzanne Breen's Sunday Tribune interview with Iris Robinson is what might be described as an ‘eye-opener’. In it we gain an insight, should we want one, into the private life of our soon to be first minister and his wife, and what is revealed is rather twee and vaguely disquieting. Indeed reading passages detailing the history of Iris’ fawning adoration for her husband it might be judicious to keep some manner of receptacle handy in which to project copious quantities of vomit.

“”My mother said, 'there's plenty more fish in the sea'. And I said, 'I don't want fish, I want Peter. Iris got her man: "One evening, Peter appeared on his cream Vespa. 'I'm sorry, take me back', he said.”


“"He was very handsome, he stood out from the other boys," she recalls. "All the girls danced attention on him. My strategy was to ignore him. I'd walk past him, nose in the air. It worked. He noticed not being noticed and asked me out”

Are merely examples of several extracts from the interview which could be used as emetics by the NHS. If that doesn’t work the sentence “Oh, Peter's been at the blackcurrant and vanilla balls”, doubtless will.

Whilst it is easy to mock the Robinsons’ ‘his and hers sweater’ style romance, it is yet easier to scoff at the footballers’ wives sensibility which the article suggests dictates the décor of their house. Iris claims the credit for the interior decorating herself and it sounds …. well, just a smidgeon overdone.

“The opulence of their home is striking. Curtains of wine and gold silk rising into a central coronet; towering Chinese vases; hundreds of china figurines and sculptures – Marie Antoinette inches away from the Last Supper. Chandeliers hang in every room – "I think I was born in another era," Iris says. Each room is themed: the dining room is Oriental; a sitting room is old English; the bathroom is Italian; one bedroom is Scottish, another French”.

And just in case any there might be any residual traces of lunch left,

“The Robinsons' bedroom has a massive four poster Gothic bed with heart-shaped cushions. Then, there's Iris's lilac dressing room. She blushes trying to hide black lacy underwear lying on the bed for a function later that night.”

If “the mother of all Union Jacks” which flies from a flagpole in the front garden were replaced by the flag of some banana republic in central Asia, the descriptions could plausibly refer to the palace of a tin-pot dictator. How apposite for a DUP leader. Peter Robinson the incoming Ulstermenbashi!

And the Ulstermenbashi sounds a tad confused given that this article has him supporting two football teams who are bitter derby rivals.

“The Robinsons have a study each. Peter's is a sombre, masculine room of leather and dark wood, dominated by a 64" flatscreen TV – to watch his beloved Chelsea and Spurs”

With Israel apparently encountering a problem with Jewish neo-Nazis I guess anything is possible.

Given the pair’s supposed derision for Sinn Fein and the IRA, it is also confusing to learn that they prominently display a card received from Gerry Adams, congratulating them on their wedding anniversary last year. Perhaps the ‘Brothers Grim’ sobriquet has been applied prematurely.

But here we must leave the strange world of Iris and Peter Robinson, with the former tootling into the distance in her “black and cream soft-top mini” listening to Patsy Cline. I would suggest that Louis Theroux would find fertile territory for a documentary should the chance ever present itself. Personally I am going to have a bath because I feel vaguely grubby having spent this article mocking people's private lives. I do apologise, but it would have taken a better man than me to resist the temptation.

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