Castlereagh Borough Council has launched an investigation into allegations surrounding business dealings concerning Iris Robinson — but has failed to give details of elected members involved in a controversial bidding process which granted her lover a licence to run his business.
A cross-party meeting was held at the council’s Bradford Court offices in Upper Gallaway first thing yesterday morning following the explosive TV documentary which revealed the wife of the First Minister had an affair with a teenager then allegedly arranged for two property developers to bankroll his new business.
The BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight programme also alleged the DUP MP broke laws covering local government codes of ethics.
Spotlight claimed in the investigation that Mrs Robinson — who was 59 at the time of the extra-marital affair while her lover Kirk McCambley was just 19 — failed to declare that she had obtained £50,000 from two businessmen to fund the venture, a cafe on the Lagan towpath called the Lock Keeper’s Inn.
The cafe was part of a new visitors’ centre which had been built by the council to coincide with the restoration of the Lock Keeper’s Cottage.
The council advertised for expressions of interest to run the cafe and set up a panel under the economic development committee to decide who would succeed in their bid.
The Belfast Telegraph has asked the council twice to provide the names of the elected members and staff who sat on the committee panel which was responsible for selecting Mr McCambley to run the cafe.
This newspaper also asked if Iris Robinson was on any of the panels involved in the selection.
A spokesman from the council told the Telegraph on Friday that he was not aware if the First Minister’s wife was involved, adding: “Iris Robinson has no connection with the finance or general purposes committee or the economic sub committee which managed the process”.
Following the programme on Thursday night the Telegraph once again asked the council to provide the names of those who sat on the committee panels involved in the selection process.
We also asked the council to clarify whether the Lock Keeper's Inn was a licensed premises and to provide the names of elected members who sat on any committee responsible for granting alcohol licences.
We also asked the council to provide the minutes from committee meetings in 2008 and concerning the Lock Keeper’s Inn. The council does not keep minutes on its website.
Last night they still had not provided a direct response to our requests.
Instead, Castlereagh Borough Council issued a statement concerning the Spotlight allegations.
It said: “As the Spotlight programme has just been broadcast last evening, the council has not had the opportunity to fully consider the content of the programme insofar as it may affect any statutory requirements of the council.
“At a cross-party meeting held this morning, the acting chief executive was instructed to instigate a full investigation.
“In the interests of good governance, the council will keep the local government auditor fully informed of this process.”
Castlereagh councillor Charlie Tosh, who was unable to make the cross-party meeting, said last night that he was shocked by the allegations.
“As far as I am concerned this doesn’t do any credit to those of us in the political arena. It’s sad that these sort of things happened. I think the actions and deeds speak for themselves.
“The reaction I have got so far is that people are pretty disgusted.
“People will obviously make their own minds up.”