Tuesday 25 October 2016

First lady, her teenage lover and how that could hand power to Sinn Fein

Published 01/11/2015 | 02:30

How the news of Mrs Robinson's affair with her 'toy-boy' lover winged its way to Washington DC, along with the tales of Ireland's political heavyweights.

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Iris Robinson: When veteran journalist David McKittrick penned his article of January 9, 2010 for the Independent newspaper on Iris Robinson's affair with 19-year-old Kirk Camberley and its potential ramifications for her husband Peter's tenure as Northern Ireland first minister, he probably didn't realise the story's shockwaves would extend all the way across the Atlantic .

But in 867 words, McKittrick had managed to provide what US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's close confidant, Sidney Blumenthal, termed a "succinct summary" of the rapidly unfolding scandal which threatened to engulf Northern Ireland's political establishment and sunder the ever-fragile peace process.

Blumenthal - a former assistant and senior advisor to Hilary's husband, former US president Bill Clinton - forwarded the article to Hilary that same day. Two days later, he followed up with a memo to Mrs Clinton marked 'confidential', in which he described the situation in the North as "fast-moving and fluid".

In the course of that communication, he detailed how, within hours of Peter Robinson's 'private' assurances to Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward, that there was no "financial irregularity" involved in his wife's infidelity, details emerged of how she had secured Stg£50,000 from government contractors to help her lover, a "teenager", set up a restaurant.

While it was a story that provided a cruel and somewhat perverse form of entertainment for the masses, in Blumenthal's view, Peter Robinson's decision to withdraw as first minister for six weeks, and the prospect of a snap election, had the potential to turn into a "full-blown crisis" which could "scuttle the peace process".

"The silence of Sinn Fein is telling. Not reacting in horror, Sinn is unsure whether this is good or bad news, and it's willing to wait," he wrote, before adding, "but the waiting game is untenable without forward movement on devolution."

"Shaun [Woodward] is also working through the Irish Government to communicate to [Gerry] Adams not to provoke a full-blown crisis, ruining peace prospects in order to advance the dream of a united Ireland," he concluded.

Declan Ganley: While the Galway-based businessman first came to public attention here in 2008 through his opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, US State Department documents place him on the Americans' radar as far back as 1996, when he paid what is described as a "courtesy call" to their embassy in the Albanian capital, Tirana. The purpose of the then 27-year-old's visit was to provide the Americans with an update on the progress of his Anglo-Adriatic Investment Fund. Ganley is said to have emphasised his "Wall Street backing" for the fund, which he intended to use in a drive to privatise state enterprises in the former communist state.

Gerry Adams: When the Sinn Fein president declared his intention to run for election in the 2011 general election, his party's press release was with Mrs Clinton's officials in 27 minutes. The records show how the announcement was emailed from the Sinn Fein press office at 8.37am on November 14, 2010 to the party's Washington representative, Rita O'Hare, who, in turn, forwarded it at 9.04am to US State Department officials. The communication was sent on to Mrs Clinton just over one hour later at 10.11am.

Relations between Mr Adams and the US authorities haven't always been so cordial. Further examination of the files record the message Mr Adams had delivered on his behalf in 1986 to the American consulate in Belfast, condemning the US bombing of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

And one from further afield ....

Silvio Berlusconi: For most people, the loss of two teeth and a pint of blood following a physical assault might represent their lowest point. In the case of the embattled former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, however, Hilary Clinton's confidant, Sidney Blumenthal, was worried US condemnation of the attack could be used as an "element in his sympathy campaign" against the court proceedings he was facing. In an email to Mrs Clinton on December 15, 2009, Mr Blumenthal stressed that a "larger message" needed to be communicated condemning all violence as an "assault on democracy". The message was put into context though by his inclusion of two press articles on the legal inquiries then in train against Mr Berlusconi, headlined: "Berlusconi cut deal with mafia, court told", and "After a court ruling, Berlusconi's legal woes resume" respectively.

Sunday Independent

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