Psychiatric help for leader's wife

2010-01-11 07:15

Belfast - The disgraced politician wife of Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson is undergoing intensive psychiatric treatment as her husband's future hangs in the balance, he said late on Sunday.

Iris Robinson is being treated after revelations she had an affair with a lover 40 years her junior and secured $80 000 from two wealthy developers to help him set up a restaurant.

She is quitting her seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Britain's House of Commons, and pressure is mounting on her husband to resign over allegations about how much he knew about his wife's financial dealings.

Robinson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), moved to quash speculation about 60-year-old Iris's whereabouts, saying: "Iris is receiving acute psychiatric treatment from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust."

His wife has been suffering from acute depression.

One of Robinson's predecessors as leader of the troubled British-run province said on Sunday his position was becoming untenable.

David Trimble, who jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his efforts to bring stability to Northern Ireland after three decades of violence, predicted in a BBC interview that Robinson would quit in the "next few days".

Trimble, an Ulster Unionist who was Northern Ireland's inaugural first minister from 1999, said: "If (Peter Robinson) is going to fight to clear his name, then the place to do that is from the back benches.

"To have a situation where a party leader sees his wife expelled from the party and acquiesces in it, doesn't even persuade the party to give her a decent way out, shows there has been a complete loss of authority."

Robinson denies any knowledge of his wife's financial dealings. If he had been aware of them, he should have reported them to parliamentary authorities.

The row comes as tensions run high between the pro-British Protestant DUP and its Catholic partners in the power-sharing government in Belfast, Sinn Fein, who want a united Ireland.

The two former arch-enemies have shared power since 2007 but have failed to reach agreement on when policing powers in Northern Ireland should be transferred from London to Belfast, the final part of the devolution process.