Oh dear. The poor Norn Irish press have been handed a genuine political scandal, and they’re a little bit lost about how to deal with it.
Over here (and it still seems a bit odd to say that about England), there would be hundreds of press camped outside the houses of everyone involved. There would be rolling news. There would be claims about the end of the political world as we know it. Hell, when you think about the Cash-for-Questions events – which dealt with around £2,000 per question – this is much larger. When you think about Robin Cook doing the dirt with his secretary, there was much more coverage.
But now, with sums of £50,000, an MP and MLA taking up with someone fully a third of her age, the First Minister’s financial and moral judgement being called into question, and there’s nothing like the same level of intrusion. There are jokes, there are news stories, but they don’t seem to be on the same scale.
It’s not that the press at home is better behaved than their cousins across the Irish Sea; recently I’ve seen photographers lying on the floor of a church to catch an action shot of me carrying a coffin, so I know they’re not exactly discrete. So why are they being more polite here? Deference to the politicians? That doesn’t sound likely.
The only thing I can think of is that they’re like rabbits in the headlights – this is a genuine, non-violent, political scandal. And it’s so far from their usual fare that they don’t know how to do anything with it.
I suspect that they’ll learn quite quickly, though…