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Mum’s the word over Iris scandal for DUP top brass

By Lesley-Anne Henry

One by one, a series of senior DUP politicians left a late night crunch party meeting at Stormont refusing to talk.

The emergency meeting was called by Peter Robinson last night as a ‘clear the air session’ designed to give all 32 DUP MLAs an opportunity to question the DUP leader over the explosive allegations arising out of the Spotlight documentary programme which aired on Thursday night.

The BBC programme asked why the DUP leader did not tell the authorities his wife had not registered £50,000 she obtained from two property developers.

Having entered Parliament Buildings under the glare of the media at about 4pm, some of the party’s big hitters drifted back out through a side door around four hours later looking stoney faced and staying tight-lipped.

By that time the temperatures had plummeted to around minus three and all Press except the Belfast Telegraph had left.

There was little indication among the politicians leaving Stormont of internal pressure being put on the party leader to step down, but it was perhaps telling that no one was rushing to voice their support.

Instead, the MLAs brushed off questions from the Belfast Telegraph and stayed silent on their views.

Leaving via Stormont’s west wing, in an effort to avoid the Press who had earlier in the evening gathered in the Great Hall, veteran politician Ian Paisley Snr, who stepped down as First Minister last year declined to give away any details of the meeting.

Wearing his trademark fedora hat and a long winter coat, a frail-looking Dr Paisley was assisted into a waiting car by his son Ian Paisley Jnr, who told the Belfast Telegraph: “He is not saying anything. We are not saying anything.”

He added: “I really can’t comment. I know the Press have a job to do, but I have a job to do too. I really can’t comment.”

Next out was Upper Bann MLA David Simpson, who told the Belfast Telegraph: “No, nothing today”.

Security guards then stepped in and ordered the Belfast Telegraph to move away from the west wing door and back behind a wall hwich is about 10 yards from the door. And about 10 minutes later before some of the other senior figures left the meeting, I was told to leave, as the building was being closed.

Earlier in the day DUP officers had congregated at the Dundela House headquarters in east Belfast to discuss the future of the first family and the party.

Peter Robinson has vowed to continue in his role as First Minister.

In a statement released at about 9pm last night, a DUP spokesman said: “The party officers have accepted Iris Robinson's decision to step down from political life.

“The party will consult with the Strangford DUP association and fill the vacated Assembly seat as well as setting in place processes to deal with the council and Westminster situations.”

Another meeting has been planned for Monday ahead of the resumption of the new Assembly term.

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