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An overview of the stories making the French and international newspaper headlines. From Monday to Friday live at 7.20 am and 9.20 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2010-01-12

Northern Ireland’s First Minister steps down after wife’s affair

With downloads of “Mrs. Robinson” skyrocketing in Northern Ireland, the public is clearly entertained and shocked in equal measure by the revelation of Iris Robinson’s affair with a 19-year-old man. Her husband has been forced to step down temporarily.

The Irish Times leads with Peter Robinson’s temporary resignation as First Minister of Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The paper leads with a photo of Robinson as he left Parliament Buildings in Stormont yesterday.

Arlene Foster, currently Northern Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, will take over for the six-week period.

The central charge against Robinson is that he breached parliamentary rules by not reporting loans which his wife procured from two businessmen on behalf of her then 19-year-old lover.

Deputy leader of the party Nigel Dodds read out a short speech reaffirming the parliamentary party’s unanimous support for Peter Robinson. Old party stalwart Rev. Ian Paisley was also present.

However, some Assembly members have said off the record that was “no hope” for Robinson’s continued leadership.

To understand the full impact of this scandal in Northern Ireland, it is essential to comprehend the conservative Protestant electorate that elected Peter Robinson and his wife (also an elected representative) to power. Iris Robinson is a Pentescostal Christian who caused a stir in June 2008 by calling homosexuality an abomination during a BBC radio interview. She went on to say homosexuals made her “sick” and recommended they seek psychiatric counseling. Recent coverage has pointed out the irony that now sees Iris Robinson herself under psychiatric care. What’s more, the passage from Leviticus which underpins her belief that homosexuality is morally wrong also condemns adultery!

This scandal is manna from heaven for Sinn Féin, the Irish nationalist party which shares power with Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party. Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams was recently embroiled in a scandal over his brother who is being pursued by the courts for the sexual abuse of his daughter. Adams is accused of not informing the Party of his brother’s history. Liam Adams was a prominent Sinn Féin figure in Dundalk, Co Louth, in the 1990s and also worked with young people there as late as 2004.

For Peter Robinson, the issue of impropriety turns particularly on a loan of £50,000 pounds secured by his for her then 19 year old lover, Kirk McCambley, for a business venture. Did Iris Robinson promise political favours in return? Why didn’t Peter Robinson inform the Assembly once he became aware of the loan as he is required to do?

The Irish Times says Robinson is in a much better place politically than 48 hours ago, having bought himself time. Describing the atmosphere in Northern Ireland, the paper says,

“This is the most amazing political theatre where we are spellbound by the principal characters, and where the personal and the political combine to create an extraordinary unfolding drama.”

On the other side of the world, the Sydney Morning Herald has picked up on the story. “Mrs. Robinson song sales soar as teen love becomes gay icon,” reads the headline.

The sale of Simon and Garfunkel’s song Mrs. Robinson has soared by 1,200% in Northern Ireland in the space of one week! The song was written for the 1967 film The Graduate in which Dustin Hoffman’s character was seduced by the much older Mrs. Robinson.

It contains the lyric, “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know.”

In a further twist in this bizarre story, Attitude, a gay magazine in Britain has tried to contact Kirk McCambley to have him on the cover.

“A lot of gay people are feeling grateful for exposing her,” the editor said.

Other stories in today’s international papers:

International Herald Tribune
Obituary of French New Wave director Eric Rohmer

The Independent
Mystery of three-year hiccup ordeal solved


 

By James CREEDON

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