Belfast Telegraph

Cafe at centre of Iris Robinson scandal to keep original name

By Ivan Little

The man who’s stepped into the shoes of Iris Robinson’s former lover Kirk McCambley as proprietor of the Lock Keeper’s Inn in Belfast has ruled out any change of name for the riverside café at the centre of the storm which ended the political career of the First Minister’s wife.

Lawrence Huddleson, who has taken over the lease of the Castlereagh council owned restaurant beside the Lagan, said: “I know it has history. But history is history.

“It’s beside the Lock Keeper’s Cottage and everybody knows the story about this place. Why would I want to change the name?” said the father of one from Hillsborough.

By a tragic twist, it’s not the first time a member of the Huddleson family has been faced with a dilemma over a business name.

For his aunt Isobel Huddleson owned the La Mon House Hotel at Castlereagh where 12 people were killed by an IRA bomb in February 1978.

And after re-building the wrecked hotel, she resisted pressure to change its name.

Lawrence Huddleson had been in the hotel just hours before the bomb went off.

“I was only four at the time but apparently my mother had taken me there not long before the bomb exploded. I remember nothing about that visit but I know the story of the tragedy all too well.

“I went on to work there on a part-time basis from an early age, doing odd jobs like running for change and cutting the grass before working my way up. You name it, I did it.

“However I never followed a ful-time career in the hospitality industry. I’ve been a housing developer and I’ve got a kitchen business. But I always wanted to get back into catering again.”

The Lock Keeper’s Inn had been closed since last November, three years after Kirk McCambley and his business partner Andrew Adair opened it.

In January 2010 it was claimed that Mr McCambley had set up the business with £50,000 given to him by his then lover, the wife of the First Minister Peter Robinson. She was 59 at the time of their affair. He was 19.

In May last year Mrs Robinson was cleared of any wrongdoing over the awarding of the lease to Mr McCambley by Castlereagh council where she was a councillor.

Mr McCambley left Northern Ireland last year but the café continued to operate in his absence for several months.

Mr Huddleson said he hadn’t been put off by the controversy surrounding the restaurant.

“And my customers have told us they’re only too pleased to see the Lock Keeper’s up and running again. We’ve only been open for a couple of weeks now but we’ve had thousands of people through our doors and we’re planning to expand.”

At the height of the Robinson scandal, dozens of people used to flock to the café in the hope of seeing her youthful lover.

And while the former Strangford MP may be gone, she’s certainly not been forgotten by some of the Lock Keeper’s clientele.

One poster on the restaurant’s new Facebook page said: “Hope you’ve sacked Mrs Robinson.”

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