Sunday 18 March 2018

Soft-spoken young man knew Iris since childhood

Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

KIRK McCAMBLEY turned up for work as usual yesterday morning, but any hope of living a normal life in the coming days and weeks is delusional.

Even if he managed to avoid the newspaper headlines, the 21-year-old probably realised that life had changed utterly when he was met by a phalanx of photographers at his cafe in south Belfast for the second time in 12 hours yesterday morning.

Or maybe it will hit home if the editor of a prominent gay magazine finally makes contact with him to offer the chance to appear on its cover. Or perhaps someone will tell him about the social networking campaign to have him parachuted immediately into the 'Celebrity Big Brother' house.

Or that the 'Kirk McCambley Appreciation Society' on Facebook had more than 3,000 members before it was removed last night, despite only being set up on Wednesday.

Wearing a scarf and a winter jacket with the insignia of the name of his cafe, Mr McCambley declined to comment further yesterday. However, the media storm of which the young businessman finds himself at the centre will test fully the old adage that 'there's no such thing as bad publicity'.

He has known Iris Robinson, the DUP MP, since he was nine years old. Mr McCambley's father Billy, an east Belfast butcher, was a close friend of Mrs Robinson. Before his premature death in 2008, Mrs Robinson promised to look after his only son.

"She looked out for me and made sure I was okay," Mr McCambley told BBC's 'Spotlight' programme. "Anyone who's ever lost a parent knows it's an incredibly hard time and she was there to help."

But she did much more than that, finding the business opportunity in the shape of the cafe for the inexperienced young man and sourcing start-up capital of €55,000 from two developers. Mr McCambley described that money as a "gift".

"I invested it in kitchen equipment, helped to get all the furniture sorted and basically got it open," he said.

The Lock Keeper's Inn opened in July 2008. It went on to win an Eircom Young Entrepreneurs Awards last year.

But while the financial aspect of the relationship between the pair has resulted in a huge political fall-out for Mrs Robinson and her husband, Peter, it is the alleged sexual aspect that has stunned just about everyone.

The BBC said that Mr McCambley was 19 at the time of affair. Mrs Robinson, a vociferous supporter of Christian values and a mother-of-three, was 59.

On various social network groups yesterday, users posted hundreds of messages of support for Mr McCambley, with particular reference to Mrs Robinson from the Hollywood movie, 'The Graduate'.

"God bless you, please Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know. Ye ho, ho, ho," wrote one poster.

However, the relationship ended in autumn 2008 and Mrs Robinson wanted the money back. Mr McCambley had to sell half of the cafe to raise the funds, although over €11,000 from the original sum has not been paid back.

The soft-spoken young man, meanwhile, will just have to deal with his sudden celebrity.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News