Iris Robinson thrown out of DUP after Kirk McCambley revelations
Published 09/01/2010 | 14:08
The Democratic Unionist Party today expelled disgraced MP Iris Robinson.
Her membership has been terminated and she will leave Westminster and her MLA's position in Stormont as early as next week because of the shame over her financial dealings with a toy boy lover.
A party source said: "The next few days is absolutely critical for the party.
"We wanted to show people we were acting decisively.
"There was no question about it, she had to go and go now.
"There was absolutely no sympathy for the position she found herself in."
The source said party officers would meet as early as Monday to decide who would replace Mrs Robinson as MLA in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
However there will not be a by-election for her Westminster Strangford seat as a general election is likely before the formal writ can be moved.
The wife of Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson announced just after Christmas she was quitting politics because of severe depression.
But the Robinsons have since been plunged into controversy after it emerged Iris had secured £50,000 from two wealthy developers to help her 19-year-old toyboy set up a restaurant business in south Belfast.
Her husband Peter has been left fighting to clear his name after insisting he did not know of his wife's irregular financial dealings with her teenage lover.
It is believed Mrs Robinson remains living at their east Belfast home.
But authoritative sources with the party claim the leader believes his marriage may not even survive, never mind his political career.
Mr Robinson faced calls to resign or consider his future amid heightening unease and deep disquiet within his own ranks following claims that he failed to alert the authorities that Mrs Robinson did not declare her monetary interest in her lover Kirk McCambley's restaurant - even though she was a member of the council that gave him the go-ahead to open in 2008.
Already under pressure from rival unionists going into the general election, some senior DUP members fear the leader might not survive this crisis and the sex and money scandal involving his troubled wife.
Mr McCambley, 21, refused to comment at his business on the banks of the River Lagan.
Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward today refused to speculate about Mr Robinson's future.
But he said: "It is a responsibility on everyone in the Assembly to understand that the consequences of allowing the political process to slide would undoubtedly have an impact on the broader canvas.
"And that if anybody were to be selfish enough to think this is a moment when that can be allowed to be put in the deep freeze, even some may wish to unpick, they would be extremely irresponsible, foolish and would be playing very, very dangerous games."
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Woodward said that the First Minister had to be allowed the opportunity to clear his name.
But he went on: "I'm very conscious of the fact that while all that is happening, he is First Minister and the business of devolution, the business of the Executive must go on.
"I hope he will be able to resume the responsibilities as First Minister to ensure that the work of the Executive continues and that includes the talks on policing and justice devolution."
Mr Robinson came out fighting last night, ordering civil servants to call in senior lawyers to investigate his actions.
At the office of the DUP headquarters in his East Belfast constituency he said: "I have consistently indicated that I have done nothing wrong, that I acted properly.
"But me believing that and saying it, in my view, is not sufficient because I am being, if you like, tried by the press and therefore I think that we need to have an investigation."
Asked what he would do if the lawyers did find he had breached ministerial codes, he said: "If there is (a breach) I will have to clearly and publicly indicate that is so and that clearly will mean there are consequences that I have to consider ... in regard to my position."
The DUP leader also disclosed that his 60-year-old wife was too unwell to even answer the allegations levelled at her.
"I am not even in the position where I can question my wife about these issues," he said.
"Neither her solicitor or I would be confident about the responses we are getting to any questions."
The MP also hit out at any suggestion that his wife was overstating the seriousness of her illness.
Last night it was disclosed that Mr Robinson's partner at the head of the powersharing government, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, had also requested that officials seek legal opinion on the allegations.
The scandal has broken with the Executive already destabilised by the ongoing rift between the DUP and Sinn Fein over delays in devolving policing powers to the region.
A Sinn Fein source said: "Martin McGuinness requested a legal opinion to be prepared by the departmental solicitor's office concerning any implications for the operations of the OFMDFM."
Sinn Fein Assembly member Caral NiChuilin has submitted an emergency motion to the Speaker Willie Hay asking the First Minister to go to the Assembly and make a statement outlining any implications for the OFMDFM office.
Meanwhile, separately, it has emerged the Electoral Commission is reviewing whether the DUP received a number of donations it should have reported.
A spokesman said it followed an interview given by Mr Robinson to a newspaper last summer in which he was quoted as saying he had donated a portion of his First Minister's salary to the party.
Political donations are regulated and for last year those over £5,000 must be reported by the party to the Commission.
The spokesman said an investigation had not been launched, but a review was being undertaken to establish if legislation had been breached.