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Troubles of the family Robinson

THE Robinson affair has the potential to create a stultifying political stalemate which could ultimately threaten the hard-won peace process. Small surprise that Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was seeking legal opinion last night on the implications for the offices of first and deputy first minister.

Even as he vigorously denies any wrongdoing, in the wake of the 'Spotlight' investigation the political position of Peter Robinson is precarious.

His suggestion that a senior counsel give an opinion on whether he has a case to answer may not be enough to placate his critics and buy him the time to which he clearly feels entitled.

Mr Robinson's media performances have done little to help his cause.

His televised statement, with four hand-picked reporters in attendance, sounded hollow to many. The obsequious approach of his interviewers, the strategically placed and constantly visible card, which read, "Dad. . . I will always look up to you", the near-tearful performance to camera which was eerily reminiscent of another, were disturbing rather than convincing.

Meanwhile, the blogs have spoken. One view from Belfast is that careful thought went into how a succession of Robinson revelations would be presented to the public.

The chronology is seen as significant.

Nine days ago, it was announced that Iris Robinson was suffering from depression and would be quitting her political career. The news was greeted with some puzzlement, but mostly sympathy.

Then it was revealed that Mrs Robinson had had an affair and had tried to kill herself. Again, there was moderate sympathy for her, pity for her loyal husband and some curiosity about why this sensitive, personal information was being made public.

Then came news of an affair with a teenage boy, odd financial dealings and an apparent breach of the ministerial code.

How much sympathy would the couple have gained had the public learned of Mrs Robinson's affair with a teenager, her financial activities, her mental problems and her suicide attempt, in that correct order?

Mr Robinson's colleagues will be thinking long and hard about these things this weekend, and about the consequences for their party, and for Northern Ireland, if an already-divided DUP is to be plunged into further misery and disarray.

Irish Independent