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David McKittrick: Clock is ticking fast for battered DUP leader

The titles of two classic songs by Simon and Garfunkel demonstrate how faint are Peter Robinson's prospects of survival as the North's First Minister.

The DUP leader is fighting to retain his position in the wake of revelations that his wife, Iris, had an affair with a 19-year-old -- only a third of her age.

The first song is Mrs Robinson (chorus: "And here's to you, Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know"), which has become the subject of frequent requests to Belfast radio stations from listeners who clearly find the whole affair irresistibly comical.

Mr Robinson insists that he was not guilty of any dereliction of his public duty in withholding information from the authorities.

The second relevant Simon and Garfunkel song is The Sound of Silence. The ominous fact for the DUP leader is that in recent days, not a single party colleague has issued any sympathetic or supportive statement.

Party members have spent the weekend mulling over the question of whether Mr Robinson should remain as leader -- as indeed did the millions of outsiders fascinated by the delicious mix of sex, power and money.

While this lack of public sympathy was being expressed, the party is also stressing that Mrs Robinson is suffering from depression and mental illness.

Far from dying down, allegations surrounding Mrs Robinson's behaviour intensified over the weekend -- among them the claims that she had three affairs.

Lurid details added to the scandal -- she and her teenage lover, Kirk McCambley, were said to have had sex in the marital bed, with "randy romps between the sheets in the Robinson mansion with her baby-faced Lothario".

While the accuracy of such reports is unclear, they are inevitably destined to be included in the Robinson family's sexual mythology.

The DUP is already recoiling from the affair, as is to be expected for a party which has a strongly Protestant religious tone.

A party meeting due to take place in Belfast today is expected to be dominated by the affair. Representatives are aware that the party could suffer serious losses in the upcoming election, in the wake of the torrent of damaging publicity.

One striking irony, given Mrs Robinson's attacks on homosexuality as "an abomination", is that her young lover has instantly assumed the status of a gay icon.

A gay magazine wants him to pose for its front cover, while sites dedicated to him are attracting much attention on the internet.

hnews@herald.ie


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