November 23rd, 2014

Claims DUP trying to bury Assembly report on Iris Robinson

Northern IrelandBy Steven Moore
Peter and Iris Robinson
Peter and Iris Robinson
Kirk McCambley
Kirk McCambley

The DUP are stifling the Assembly report into the Iris Robinson sex scandal because they fear it could hamper their election hopes, it’s been claimed.

Anna Lo, who is deputy chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Standards and Privileges – the body waiting to receive the sensitive dossier, told the Sunday World she feared the legal bid to block the report may be politically motivated.

Meanwhile there was a growing fear amongst other senior political sources that the report – which was completed seven months ago – might never see the light of day.

Lawyers representing Iris Robinson have put up legal challenges to the report being made public because they claim it could damage Iris’s recovery from mental illness.

They also claim the report breached the privacy of Mrs Robinson.

Last night MLA Anna Lo, who is deputy chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Standards and Privileges, told the Sunday World she suspected the potentially damning report was deliberately being withheld until after next year’s election.

“That’s our concern – that elements within the DUP are determined to make sure the report isn’t seen publicly until after the elections in 2016,” said the Alliance politician.

Next year Northern Ireland will vote for 18 MPs and the DUP are desperately hoping to win back the east Belfast seat lost by Peter Robinson in 2010.

And in 2016 voters will go to the polls again to select representatives to the Assembly. 

Anything damaging in the report could have dire consequences for the DUP in those elections.

“It’s taken so long for the report to be produced and now it has been blocked without any sign of when it will be published,” says Lo

“I mean when will we see it? In the next two years? Three years? All this does is feed into the public’s suspicion that there is some kind of cover-up going on.

“Where is the transparency? We need to know if there was any breach of conduct of the First Minister or Iris Robinson.”

“The DUP are desperate to make sure this report is either blocked completely or that it is seriously watered down,” said a senior political source.

 

“Whatever is in it will be damaging and embarrassing for the party. It is also personally humiliating to Peter Robinson personally to have all the sordid details of Iris’s relationship with her teenage lover rehashed all over again.

 

“It’s likely through legal challenges they will be able to block this for a long time if they desire but whether they can stop it all together is another matter.

 

“It’s likely it probably will come out but it may not be in its current form.”

The Iris Robinson scandal exploded over the Christmas of 2009 when it emerged that she had been involved in a sordid love affair with 19-year-old drug abuser Kirk McCambley.

Not only that but she rocked the political foundations of Stormont to its core when a BBC Spotlight programme revealed that she had asked two property developers for £50,000 to help her then lover, set up a cafe, and had also staggeringly asked for a £5,000 cut of the cash for herself.

Mrs Robinson did not register her dealings at Stormont or Westminster, as required by law.

She also failed to declare her interest when Mr McCambley was awarded the cafe lease by Castlereagh council, where she was a sitting councillor.

It was also alleged that Peter Robinson became aware of his wife’s involvement in the business deal but failed to tell the proper authorities, despite being obliged to act in the public interest by the ministerial code.

Iris Robinson disappeared from public life four years ago citing mental health problems, just after her shock announcement on retiring from politics when her affair and business dealings were revealed on Spotlight.

Wild rumours abounded about where she had fled to with some reports saying she was hiding out in France and even the US.

But the Sunday World tracked her down to a luxury clinic in London where she was apparently undergoing psychiatric counselling.

Well-groomed and looking extremely fit and healthy the disgraced then MP was seen strolling through the streets of the English capital.

The Standards and Privileges Committee began its inquiry on January 11 2010, days after the allegations were made in a BBC Spotlight documentary.

The issue emerged in an annual report from the Assembly’s commissioner for standards, Douglas Bain.

It states: “My investigation into the referral relating to the allegations made in the BBC Spotlight programme broadcast in January 2010 was completed in November 2013.

“However, submission of my report to the committee has been delayed by a legal challenge to its contents by a person referred to in the report.”