Mrs. Robinson's affair with teen rocks NIreland

BELFAST, Northern Ireland – A political scandal riveting Northern Ireland has a certain cinematic feel: an affair by 58-year-old woman named Mrs. Robinson with a 19-year-old male lover.

Five separate Facebook groups with hundreds of followers have sprung up, lampooning the affair and comparing it to the 1967 film, "The Graduate."

But there is a serious side to the story of Iris Robinson, who also happens to be a member of Parliament and the wife of Peter Robinson — Northern Ireland's government leader.

The BBC reported that Iris Robinson allegedly solicited 50,000 pounds $80,000 from businessmen so her young lover could open a restaurant — without disclosing the fact to lawmakers.

Iris Robinson has said she would not seek re-election because she was suffering clinical depression that left her unable to function in public life and revealed that she attempted suicide. She also begged forgiveness from her husband, Peter, and the public.

"Everyone is paying a heavy price for my actions. ... I am so, so sorry," she said.

Peter Robinson, who in 2008 succeeded the Rev. Ian Paisley as head of Northern Ireland's government and its major Protestant political party, vowed Friday to stay on following the revelations about his wife.

"I will be resolutely defending attacks on my character and contesting any allegations of wrongdoing," Peter Robinson said after the BBC investigative team in Belfast exposed the scandal. He stressed that he hadn't known key details of his wife's affair before the program.

On Wednesday, Peter Robinson invited four journalists to his home to give his own agonized account of his family's private turmoil — an unprecedented display from a man renowned for an icy demeanor.

The Robinsons neglected to mention the nub of the BBC report: That Iris Robinson's lover, 39 years her junior, had received third-party cash from her that should have been disclosed to Parliament.

The BBC interviewed the former boyfriend, Kirk McCambley, now 21, who had a relationship with Iris Robinson in 2008 that lasted several months. She had been friends with the boy's father, who died earlier that year.

"She looked out for me to make sure I was OK," McCambley told the BBC.

He said Iris Robinson, now 60, gave him two checks for 25,000 pounds $40,000 each, but she then asked him for 5,000 pounds $8,000 back, possibly to donate to the evangelical Protestant church she attends.

The BBC said Peter Robinson was aware of the financial deal — which should have been reported to British parliamentary standards authorities in both Belfast and London. Peter Robinson denies having known about the deal.

Even before the scandal, Iris Robinson had caused her husband political problems when she condemned homosexuals as revolting and called on them to seek help from psychiatrists and Christianity.

"Just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ, so can a homosexual," she said.

The Robinsons have been married for 40 years and have three grown children. When Iris joined her husband in Parliament in 2001, they became the United Kingdom's first husband-and-wife lawmakers.

Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.