World

Life imitates art in N. Ireland political scandal

A political scandal that has riveted Northern Ireland has a certain cinematic ring, involving, as it does, an affair between an older woman named Mrs. Robinson and her young lover — much like the plot of the movie The Graduate.

A political scandal that has riveted Northern Ireland has a certain cinematic ring, involving, as it does, an affair between an older woman named Mrs. Robinson and her young lover — much like the plot of the movie The Graduate.  

Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, a man known as a cool, sometimes ruthless tactician, went before the cameras this week to say that his wife of 40 years, Iris Robinson, 60, also a British MP, confessed to having an affair. The confession apparently drove her to attempt suicide.

"It was about midnight, between midnight and one o'clock of the first and second of March that all of these events became known to me when Iris tried to take her own life," Robinson told the BBC. 

Iris Robinson, a devout Christian who built her political career in part by denouncing homosexuality and espousing traditional family values, started an affair a year and a half ago with 19-year-old Kirk McCambley.

In an interview with the BBC, McCambley revealed how his former lover had arranged a loan of $80,000 to help him start up a restaurant business. When the affair fizzled out, Robinson demanded McCambley pay back the loan.

It created an uncomfortable situation for the two ex-lovers, but it might have also put the Robinsons in violation of a law that requires politicians to declare their business interests. There are now calls in Northern Ireland for an investigation.

The BBC said Peter Robinson was aware of the financial deal, which should have been reported to British parliamentary standards authorities in both Belfast and London. Peter Robinson denies having known about the deal. 

He said he has done nothing wrong and won't resign as first minister. That has sparked a mixed response on the streets of Belfast, with some calling for him to stay and others saying he should resign.

Iris Robinson has stepped down as an MP. Her husband said he and his wife will stay together to try to rebuild their marriage.

The scandal puts pressure on the fragile coalition currently governing Northern Ireland and comes at a dangerous time.

On Friday, a police officer was badly injured by a bomb that exploded under his car.