Belfast Telegraph

Iris Robinson affair: Five key findings - text messages, late night calls and bizarre redactions

By Staff Reporter

Five key revelations from yesterday's inquiry release

1. PETER ROBINSON'S LETTER

Peter Robinson provides an insight into his wife's ill-health in a letter sent to the clerk of the Standards and Privileges Committee.

Dated August 1 this year, it is written after he receives the final report from the Assembly Commissioner on what he terms the unfounded allegations against him in the Spotlight programme.

Mr Robinson states that "in view of the way Iris has been treated by, and in, the Press" he wants to express some views "as her husband".

"I have a perspective of these matters that is unique and allows me, though it has caused me profound pain, to understand the uncharacteristic behaviour that attended this period in Iris's life," he writes. "Iris has struggled, for the most part successfully, with mental health issues.

"The only lesson the report on Iris conveys is the sad, tragic and self-destructive behaviour of someone who was mentally ill and who, during such a period, acted entirely out of character."

He is particularly critical of Press reporting, describing it as "nasty, vindictive and heartless".

2. KIRK McCAMBLEY

Kirk McCambley was a young businessman who had a personal and business relationship with Iris Robinson. Mrs Robinson obtained £50,000 from two property developers in order to help the then 19-year-old secure a tender for a south Belfast cafe, the Lock Keeper's Inn.

One of the property developers agreed to provide money on condition that Mr McCambley gave £5,000 from the payment to Mrs Robinson to use for charitable purposes.

A briefing note of an interview carried out with Mr McCambley and interim Commissioner for Standards Tom Frawley is contained in yesterday's report.

The document, dated November 21, 2011, makes no reference to his affair with Mrs Robinson.

It describes how Mr McCambley first became aware of the business opportunity at the Lock Keeper's Cottage in spring 2008.

Mrs Robinson, who was a friend of the teenager's late father, also brought the venture to his attention.

He approached two banks for financial backing, but was turned down.

When he told her about the banks refusing finance, she offered to help, offering him £50,000.

Two cheques of £25,000 - one signed by Fred Fraser and the second by Ken Campbell - were made payable to him.

Mr McCambley confirmed he gave Mrs Robinson £5,000 in cash.

He said she told him the money was needed to "straighten out" her own financial situation.

3. SELWYN BLACK’S ROLE

Selwyn Black was Iris Robinson's political adviser between January 2008 and December 2009. He later turned whisleblower for the BBC's Spotlight documentary. The report contains a timeline of his period as Mrs Robinson's adviser, noting a number of bizarre events - including late-night calls and the loss of a mobile phone - in the run-up to the programme being broadcast.

According to the log, it was not until October 15, 2008 that Mr Black became aware of Mrs Robinson's interest in a cafe.

The following month he learnt that there had been a financial investment in the cafe. In June 2009, Mr Black announced his resignation after Iris Robinson was moved from chair of the Stormont health committee.

The same month, the log says he met an unnamed friend from university to discuss "issues of concern around what he is witnessing at Stormont". On October 21 Mr Black learned Mrs Robinson was present the night that Castlereagh Borough Council discussed the Lock Keeper's Inn. He feels "totally compromised" by the news. On November 14 and 15 he records a series of interviews with the BBC's Darragh MacIntyre.

The report discusses how Peter Robinson repeatedly attempted to contact Mr Black in December 2009. The log states that between December 14 and 23, Mr Black turned down "many calls" from Mr Robinson and his staff.

4. TEXT MESSAGES

More than 30 text messages sent by Iris Robinson to Selwyn Black are published. Just six are displayed in full. The others are fully or partially redacted.

One, sent on November 22 2008, states: "It seems cruel but I am not going to soften until he pays back the 45k and he has got till Christmas."

The sentences before and after are blanked out. The text is signed "Iris xxx".

Another, dated December 24 2008, states: "I need the cheque made out not in the name of the Church but to my name."

The following sentence is blacked out. In another lengthy text, sent on New Year's Day 2009, she states: "I would not (redacted) or be dishonest with money.

"I don't even claim monies I am due through expenses which I know can be inflated by many who r elected. I don't do it."

In a fourth text, dated 10.09pm on January 14, 2009, she forwards a message sent from her son, Gareth.

It states: "Mum the council agreed tonight to kirk mccambleys request re Lock keepers cottage to have his business partner named on the lease."

The remainder of the text, which is signed "G. x", is redacted.

5. REDACTIONS

A significant amount of details have been redacted from the published version.

Among them, bizarrely, is a transcript of the Spotlight programme which first brought the scandal to the public's attention. An interview with Peter Robinson by this newspaper's political editor Liam Clarke, then working for the Sunday Times, is also redacted.

The article, entitled "DUP in crisis: Liam Clarke interviews Peter Robinson", is available online to anyone through a simple Google search.

The report states: "In line with the committee's position on any report, the commissioner has redacted confidential and other personal information from the evidence he received where there is no prejudice to the public interest in knowing how a conclusion has been reached."

It adds: "The committee is satisfied that the redactions that it has made are necessary and proportionate and do not prevent readers of the report from fully understanding how both the commissioner and the committee reached their conclusions."

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