Iris Robinson's lover named as 19-year-old Kirk McCambley amid allegations over finances
Published 08/01/2010 | 00:00
Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, and his wife Iris face questions over her financial dealings after allegations concerning a £50,000 deal she secured for her 19-year-old lover.
Kirk McCambley (21), proprietor of the Lock Keepers Inn cafe in south Belfast, was a teenager when the affair took place 18 months ago. Mrs Robinson was 59-years-old.
In revelations on the BBC's Spotlight programme screened last night, it was alleged that the Strangford MP broke the law by not declaring her financial interest in organising a £50,000 business deal to help her toyboy lover set up a business in Belfast.
Mrs Robinson secured the money from two family friend developers so Mr McCambley could open a restaurant on the banks of the River Lagan.
It is alleged Mrs Robinson did not declare an interest in the business despite sitting on the local council that awarded the tender to Mr McCambley.
The BBC documentary also claimed that her husband, Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, became aware of the situation but did not take steps to alert the appropriate authorities.
If the claims made by the investigation are true, they would represent clear breaches of parliamentary rules.
Mrs Robinson and Mr McCambley's affair lasted for around five months starting in the summer of 2008.
It ended after they rowed over the repayment of the money. Four months later, in March last year, the MP attempted to take her own life.
The pair had first become close after she comforted him following the death of his father and her friend, Billy.
"She looked out for me to make sure I was OK," her former lover, now 21, told the Spotlight programme.
Selwyn Black, a former adviser to the MP who resigned after feeling uneasy about the loans issue, told the documentary she encouraged Mr McCambley to bid for the tender to run a cafe at the historic Lock Keeper's Cottage, a site the council Mrs Robinson sat on was redeveloping.
Apparently she then obtained two £25,000 payments from the developers Ken Campbell and Fred Fraser, who has since died.
Mr McCambley said she had both cheques made out in his name, but asked him for £5,000 back in cash - allegedly to pay off her own debts.
Castlereagh Council subsequently awarded Mr McCambley the contract to run the cafe.
However, Spotlight claimed Mrs Robinson failed to register her financial interest in the scheme to her fellow councillors and did not record the two loans on her parliamentary declaration of interests.
Mr Black, who turned whistleblower to the investigation, said Mr Robinson became aware of the situation and in December 2008 urged his wife to ensure both loans were repaid to Mr Campbell and the estate of Mr Fraser.
However, it claimed that he did not alert Castlereagh Council, the Stormont Assembly, Westminster or any parliamentary watchdog that his wife may have broken rules.
"They both knew the consequences of what they had been involved in and did nothing to address that circumstance," said Mr Black.
"It goes right to the heart of credibility of government in Northern Ireland."
Mrs Robinson stepped down from politics nine days ago, citing a long battle with depression.
She issued a sensational statement yesterday revealing her affair and her subsequent suicide attempt.
The documentary team was told she was too unwell to answer the allegations made in the programme.
During an interview about his marriage yesterday, Mr Robinson said he was aware of the Spotlight claims and was confident he had done nothing wrong.
A DUP spokesman said tonight: "Following allegations made about Peter Robinson in the BBC's Spotlight programme on Thursday 7th January 2010, Mr Robinson will be consulting his legal team on Friday."
Yesterday, Iris Robinson issued a stunning statement admitting the affair and that she had attempted to take her own life in its aftermath.
"Everyone is paying a heavy price for my actions... I am so, so sorry," she said.
Mr Robinson said he has forgiven his wife and vowed to try and rebuild their marriage.
And the East Belfast MP was back behind his desk today, meeting Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness this afternoon for talks about devolving policing and justice powers from London to Belfast.
Weeks prior to yesterday's admissions, Strangford MP and Assembly member Mrs Robinson announced she was stepping down from public life last month, citing a long running battle with depression.
Mr Robinson has pledged to stay on as First Minister and lead his party into the forthcoming general election.
The couple's 40-year marriage was considered by all sides to be rock-solid, with the DUP leader frequently rallying to his wife's defence when her outspoken criticism of homosexuality saw many label her a political liability.
But that image of wedded bliss was shattered by yesterday's admissions.
Since Mrs Robinson's decision to leave the political stage, there had been been intense behind-the-scenes speculation about the state of their relationship.
Mr Robinson had been away from his office at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, but suddenly called a special press briefing yesterday afternoon at his house in Dundonald where officials issued a personal statement by his wife before he went on to speak to four journalists to confirm the couple's private turmoil.
He said: "I love my wife. I have always been faithful to her. In a spirit of humility and repentance, Iris sought my forgiveness.
"She took responsibility upon herself alone for her actions and I have forgiven her. More important, I know that she has sought and received God's forgiveness."
Mrs Robinson was not to be seen at her luxury home yesterday, but in her statement she spoke about how severe bouts of depression had altered her mood and personality.
She said: "I fought with those I loved most, my children and friends; saw plots where none existed and conducted myself in a manner which was self-destructive and out of character.
"During this period of mental illness I lost control of my life and did the worst thing that I have ever done. Over a year-and-a-half ago, I was involved in a relationship.
"It began completely innocently when I gave support to someone following a family death. I encouraged friends to assist him by providing financial support for a business venture.
"Regrettably, the relationship later developed into a brief affair. It had no emotional or lasting meaning, but my actions have devastated my life, and the lives of those around me."
Mrs Robinson, an MP since 2001, disclosed how at midnight on March 1 last year - believed to be at their home - she tried to take her own life when she confessed to the affair because of the guilt she felt.
Hours later her husband was at the dispatch box answering questions at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Mr Robinson claimed the couple first considered going public about the affair last November, but decided against the move because of medical advice that his wife would not have been able to cope with the consequences.
Today, successive senior DUP members issued statements of support for their leader.
Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: "All political representatives are entitled to private space, but I believe the public, having already recognised the leadership and vision he has given to Northern Ireland during difficult times, will have a greater understanding of that when they now know other issues he was dealing with during some of those days.
"Peter's contribution to the political future in Northern Ireland will continue and strengthen and everyone within the DUP is strengthened in our resolve to build a better future for the province and to see devolution improved and delivering for everyone in our community."
Stormont Finance Minister and East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he had known the Robinson family for more than 30 years.
"I cannot remember any other occasion when there has been such a massive outpouring of love, support and best wishes towards them from right throughout the community.
"I know that it took massive personal bravery for Peter to come before the cameras and share the details of his private life.
"What Peter and Iris and their family are going through at the present time is a personal tragedy and needs to be respected as such."