Belfast Telegraph

What did First Minister's wife Iris Robinson do on night toyboy lover's cafe plan got green light?

By Noel McAdam

One month ago the DUP claimed Iris Robinson had been completely exonerated of any wrongdoing over how a contract was awarded to her former lover.

But now it has emerged councillors in Castlereagh are being asked more questions about the wife of the First Minister and her movements on the night that the authority approved the terms of a lease to Kirk McCambley.

The project was the Lock Keeper's Inn, on the Lagan Towpath, for which Castlereagh Council had awarded the contract in 2008 to McCambley.

Mrs Robinson was also an elected member on the council.

After allegations, broadcast on the BBC Spotlight programme, the council launched its own investigation through consultant Deloitte last year.

The consultants held a private presentation for councillors at their May monthly meeting from which the Press and public were barred.

After the meeting, the council said that the unpublished report concluded that there was no evidence of financial loss and the DUP said Mrs Robinson had been completely vindicated.

But now, following the latest monthly meeting last week, it has been learned that councillors have received emails from Deloitte asking if they have any recollection of Mrs Robinson leaving the council meeting at which the contract was awarded, and at what point in the agenda that might have coincided with.

Any council member who has further information has been asked to contact Deloitte by next Monday and a further - and possibly final - version of the report is to be delivered to the monthly meeting at the end of July.

Alliance councillor Geraldine Rice said, however, she did not believe anyone would have the information dating back three years. "At that time we all just came and went without anything being recorded, and that is the way things were done in Castlereagh," the veteran member said.

"I doubt if anyone would remember in hindsight what time Iris came or went.

"But it just wasn't practice to record it at that time."

A spokeswoman for the council said: "It was agreed that the final report would be presented to the council, once officers and those named in the report were given the opportunity to review the report and respond to its content.

"The council will be further updated at its meeting in July."

After the private council briefing last month DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt said the report made "absolutely no criticism whatsoever" of Mrs Robinson.

Adding it also contained no criticism of any councillor or council official, he said: "Those who previously engaged in rumour-mongering and mud-slinging now have no foundation to continue to do so."

Doubts emerged the day after, however, when Alliance members revealed councillors had not been given copies of the Deloitte report, which was described as only a "final draft".

Alliance member Judith Cochrane told the Belfast Telegraph: "There is not enough information in the public domain at this time on which to draw any firm conclusions."

A council statement after the May presentation said there was no evidence "of financial loss to the council or any impropriety by council officers of members directly involved in the assessment panel regarding the award of the lease".

The council spokeswoman then disclosed that Mrs Robinson did not sit on the assessment panel.

Background

An independent report was commissioned by Castlereagh Borough Council after it was revealed Iris Robinson secured two £25,000 loans to help her then lover raise capital to run the Lock Keeper's Inn.

The former MP and MLA was also on the council at the time and was said not to have declared any interest when the lease for the inn was awarded in 2008.

The report was delayed, however, after the PSNI announced its own investigation and a report was sent to the DPP, which then announced Mrs Robinson would not be facing charges.

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