In Kirk McCambley's cafe yesterday genteel mothers with young children exchanged knowing glances as Iris Robinson's young former lover worked busily behind the counter serving up lattes.
The MP allegedly secured £50,000 from two wealthy developer friends so the fresh-faced Mr McCambley, now 21, could open the Lock Keeper's Inn restaurant.
Still boyish-looking, with gelled hair and just the hint of a downy moustache, in another life he could have been signed up for a boy band. Fame, or infamy, has visited him nonetheless.
Nestled on the snow-cloaked banks of the river Lagan's towpath the cafe is in a renovated stone building dating from the 1880s and just five miles from the Stormont Estate where the reverberations from the dalliance could yet topple the First Minister. It was opened in May 2009 in the Lagan Valley Regional Park, at the heart of the affluent Malone Road area of south Belfast and is a stop-off for couples and families communing with nature on a popular walking route.
Yesterday the cafe did a roaring trade and while the lure of hot drinks on a freezing day made a seat in the small cafe an attractive proposition, many of those who thronged it were lured by something more than cappuccinos.
Mr McCambley, dark hair cut short and dressed in black shirt and trousers with black apron, spent much of the time outside fielding calls on his mobile phone and when asked about the controversy simply smiled wanly, said "no comment" and shook hands. Janice Richards, 33, a full-time mother from south Belfast, said: "It is just such a surprise, to think with someone so young..."
Another diner, who refused to be named, munched on toast as she said: "I just came here for something to eat."
Before noon the young man with all eyes on him made his escape, gingerly sledging on indoor shoes across the stone bridge, over the river and across the frozen snow to a waiting red Renault Megane.Reuse content