Peter Robinson, Gerry Adams and Questions about Political Leadership

image A column by David Gordon in today’s Belfast Telegraph addresses speculation about the leadership of DUP First Minister Peter Robinson, noting the persistent rumours that he too will bow out of politics following his wife Iris Robinson’s retirement due to depression.

Yesterday in the same paper, Gordon made the case that Mr. Robinson wouldn’t be keen to abandon politics. Gordon also voiced the rather cynical analysis that Mrs. Robinson’s absence from ‘the General Election field may blunt anti-DUP attacks on the expenses issue’, which would inadvertently bolster her husband’s and her party’s position. A cruel point to make, perhaps, but as Gordon claims:

… jibes about dynasties and the ‘Swish Family Robinson’ may not hit quite as hard now.

At the same time, debate has been raging on the popular politics blog Slugger O’Toole about whether the media are giving Gerry Adams an easy ride about what now appears to be a cover-up of massive proportions of the sexual abuse of his niece, Aine Tyrell, by his brother Liam Adams. Slugger founder Mick Fealty has drawn a direct comparison between the way Adams has been handled and the way Robinson has been criticised about other matters such as delaying his comments on the death of Catholic Cardinal Cahal Daly:

Given the amount of stick Peter Robinson is getting from the MSM, I’d hate think what would have happened to him if it had been found he was shielding a brother he suspected of child abuse, and promoted him through the party ranks, and then persuaded a senior party front bencher to lie about it afterwards. If you read nothing else today, read Suzanne Breen’s excellent account of how Gerry Adams lied about his brother Liam’s role in the party in Dundalk. And consider just how you might feel about an MP who allowed his constituents send their kids to youth projects he’d kept in the dark about his own suspicions? If it was Robinson and not Adams, and the clubs were in Tullycarnet and the lower Newtownards Road and not Clonard and Beechmount, the likelihood is he would be fried for his sins. And not simply by the media, but by his party. Adams on the other hand…

Gordon says that Robinson and Adams’ family problems have meant that a deal to devolve policing and justice has stalled to a pace even slower than Northern Ireland’s normally glacial political tempo. This comes in light of a Telegraph poll earlier in the week that revealed that 81% of people in Northern Ireland want policing and justice powers devolved sooner rather than later.

I think that’s quite an extraordinary vote of confidence in Northern Irish politicians. It surprises me, frankly, given the general whiff of scandals about Stormont and a general public moodiness about the Assembly’s inability to accomplish much of substance.

So I hope people continue to ask these questions:

· Is there really a media double-standard when it comes to the cases of Robinson and Adams? If so, why?

· How serious are the people of Northern Ireland about reforming our political system so that it is clear and transparent, especially relating to issues like politicians’ expenses, double-jobbing, and employing family members? (Gordon’s book, Fall of the House of Paisley, treats these issues in great detail)

· How do people want to deal with the repercussions of the sexual abuse of children, especially when it seems politicians and/or clergy have been involved in cover-ups?

· The people of Northern Ireland seem to want their Assembly to have more power (at least as far as the poll on policing and justice reveals). But how can power be translated in the actual ability to get things done?

(Photo from glenrover, flickr)

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