Robinson rages in TV interview

An extraordinary BBC interview with DUP leader Peter Robinson has stoked the growing controversy surrounding the Robinson family and its financial dealings.

In a near hysterical response to questioning, Mr Robinson called the respected journalist Seamus McKee “dense” and repeatedly railed against BBC “smears”.

Unionist extremist Jim Allister has said he will proceed with a defamation case against Peter Robinson unless the DUP leader retracts allegations made against him.

Mr Allister, a barrister, said he would instruct his lawyers to write a ‘letter of claim’ to Mr Robinson, effectively ordering him to retract the statement branding him as a “liar”.

“He showed a side that many of us who were in the party knew was there but he let the public see it”, said Allister, leader of ‘Traditional Unionist Voice’.

“I’m sure many people in the DUP were embarrassed by the pantomime of it.”

Last week, talks were said to be continuing between the main unionist parties, the DUP and the UUP, over the terms of fielding a joint unionist candidate for the constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

Rodney Connor, former head of Fermanagh District Council, was rumoured last week as a possible agreed unionist candidate.

A joint unionist candidate would present Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew with a challenge to hold on to her Westminster seat.

It is understood the two parties cannot agree on the extent of Mr Connor’s potential links to the British Conservative Party in Westminster. The UUP is now closely allied with the Tories, while the DUP, which could potentially hold the balance of power, has remained relatively neutral.

Time is also running out with the final deadline for registering candidates for the Westminster election just two weeks away, on April 20.

Relations between the two parties worsened significantly last week when Empey pressed the DUP leader to explain himself over allegations about the purchase and sale of land near his home for just five pounds.

Mr Robinson, obviously wounded by the controversy over his wife’s affairs -- most recently by apparent photographs of his adulterous wife walking about London without a wedding ring -- also attacked Empey as a ‘liar’ in the BBC interview.

The final blow to the possibility of a pan-unionist deal may have been confirmation this week by Empey that he will contest the constituency of South Antrim against veteran DUP hardliner Willie McCrea.

McCrea, the sitting MP, re-took the south Antrim seat for the DUP in 2005 with a relatively slim majority of 3,448 over the UUP. He was notably the only DUP Assembly member not to vote in favour of the transfer of policing and justice powers to Belfast last month.

The DUP accused Empey of ‘changing his mind’ after previously criticising DUP ‘double jobbing’.

“He very clearly said he was not running for Westminster, he said he wanted to concentrate on the Assembly and now all of a sudden he is running for Westminster and quite clearly he is doing this out of desperation, they could not get anyone else,” she said.


Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said that figures from previous elections showed that a nationalist candidate could win the North Belfast seat.

“They also clearly show that Sinn Fein is the only party who can win this seat from Nigel Dodds and the DUP,” he said.

“Of course this is most likely if nationalists unite around Sinn Fein and unite around the common goal of Sinn Fein’s equality campaign.

“Winning this seat for nationalism for the first time in this constituency’s 125 year history would break the DUP veto on equality for all.

“Sinn Fein have been steadily closing the gap on the DUP in the North Belfast constituency in recent years. We are now best positioned to take this seat. A vote for any other nationalist candidate is a wasted vote.

“The DUP under Nigel Dodds in North Belfast have used their status to block every aspect of equality, especially in relation to leisure provision and house building programmes aimed at tackling chronic need. We now have a huge opportunity to make an historic breakthrough for the whole community.”

Sinn Fein are to hold ten public meetings in constituencies across the six counties over the next two weeks. The meetings will present Sinn Fein’s ‘vision for the future’ and allow the general public to engage with the party.

The first meetings are being held in Newry and Derry on Tuesday.

We have a favour to ask

We want to keep our publication as available as we can, so we need to ask for your help. Irish Republican News takes time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe it makes a difference. If everyone who reads our website helps fund it, our future would be much more secure.

For as little as £1, you can support Irish Republican News – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

© 2010 Irish Republican News