Socialist Worker

Iris Robinson: scandal and sectarianism in Northern Ireland

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2184

Peter Robinson, the first minister of Northern Ireland, has resigned – temporarily, he claims.

His wife Iris Robinson, a Northern Ireland Assembly member and MP, admitted an affair with a 19 year old.

Socialists have no interest in private sexual choices – but Mrs Robinson is a member of the reactionary Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a Protestant bigot and a hypocrite.

And the scandal was not just about the affair, but about Iris Robinson securing a £50,000 loan for her lover.

The tawdry scandal of sex and corruption has rocked the establishment. It is a reflection of an ongoing crisis in Northern Irish politics.

The built-in gridlock in the sectarian settlement that is the 1998 peace agreement means that there have been many crises.

The latest stumbling block before this scandal was the devolving of policing and justice to the Assembly.

The powers were supposed be transferred by May 2008. This was important to Republican party Sinn Fein in continuing to argue that the peace process is lessening Britain’s control of Northern Ireland. But the DUP delayed the agreement and implementation of this.

At the same time the entrenched sectarianism of the Northern Irish state has led to a small but real revival in paramilitary action from dissident Republicans.

The structures in Northern Ireland, set up and retained by the British state, are designed to contain sectarian rivalries, not get rid of them.

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Tue 12 Jan 2010, 18:09 GMT
Issue No. 2184
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