28/11/2014

Iris Robinson Committed 'Serious Breach'

An investigation has found Irish Robinson committed a "serious breach" of the Northern Ireland Assembly's code of conduct.

The report, compiled by the assembly's Committee on Standards and Privileges, follows a BBC Spotlight investigation four years ago.

In January 2010, the programme revealed Mrs Robinson's financial and personal relationship with businessman Kirk McCambley, who was 19 at the time. During the course of the programme, it was revealed that Mrs Robinson had obtained £50,000 from two property developers in order to help her lover secure a tender for a café in south Belfast – the Lock Keeper's Inn.

One of the property developers had agreed to provide money, on the condition that Mr McCambley give £5,000 from the payment to Mrs Robinson to use for charitable purposes.

The report, which was published today, found that Mrs Robinson broke assembly rules as she failed to register three payments, including two from the property developers, in the assembly's register of members' interests.

While she was found to have committed a "serious breach" of the code, her husband, First Minister Peter Robinson did not.

At the time of the scandal, the First Minister temporarily delegated his responsibilities to a colleague, while his wife stood down as an MP and MLA. She has maintained a low profile ever since.

Douglas Bain, the Stormont Standards Commissioner, said: "Although there is no evidence that any of the three payments was in fact connected with her role as an MLA, they would assuredly have been perceived, by members of the public who became aware of them, as likely to influence her actions as an MLA.

"The fact that she failed to register them itself adds weight to the perception of their improper nature. In these circumstances she had a clear duty to register the payments. She failed in that duty."

The commissioner also cleared Mrs Robinson of breaking the code of conduct in relation to several other claims made in the Spotlight programme.

Mr Bain added: "I am satisfied that none of the allegations made in that programme against Mr Peter Robinson could, even if established as true, constitute a breach of... the code of conduct."

It is understood MLAs on the Standards and Privileges Committee unanimously endorsed the commissioner's findings.

(JP)

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