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DUP choice for Iris Robinson’s seat linked to ex-prisoner

The DUP candidate bidding to replace disgraced Iris Robinson on Castlereagh Borough Council has declined to comment on reports that she is the girlfriend of a former loyalist prisoner.

Dundonald woman Sharon Skillen (23) was pictured in the Sunday Life newspaper alongside ex-Maze prisoner Tommy ‘Tinker’ Taylor (43).

Following the departure of Iris Robinson, the DUP last week unsuccessfully tried to co-opt Ms Skillen onto Castlereagh Borough Council.

However, after objections to the co-option from other parties in Castlereagh, voters will instead decide the fate of Mrs Robinson’s East Castlereagh seat at a forthcoming by-election.

Mr Taylor, a prominent loyalist from Tullycarnet estate, has links with UDA chief Jackie McDonald.

Pictures of the attractive Ms Skillen with the burly, tattooed loyalist were published yesterday showing them together after her graduation ceremony in London and at the Thiepval Somme Memorial.

Another shows the fledgling politician dressed in a sexy Santa costume.

The young Dundonald woman, who used to work for the UDA-linked Conflict Transformation Initiative (CTI), declined to comment on her relationship, but said: “I’m new to this (politics) and I don’t want to cause myself any trouble, so I can’t make any sort of comment.”

In a further twist, it was also revealed that Taylor is a director of Castlereagh Borough Council’s urban renewal group, the Hanwood Trust.

First Minister Peter Robinson is a former chairman of the Hanwood Trust and his wife Iris is a former director.

The couple’s son Gareth Robinson, a DUP Castlereagh councillor, sits on the board and is the company secretary.

Talyor joined the board in August 2006.

Frankie Gallagher, a UDA political adviser, is also on the trust’s board of directors.

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