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Iris Robinson broke Stormont cash rule but will not face sanction

Probe clears First Minister Peter Robinson but says wife breached code of conduct

By Adrian Rutherford

Iris Robinson will not face sanction despite a report concluding that she broke a Stormont rule by not declaring cash she received to set her teenage lover up in business.

The report is expected to clear First Minister Peter Robinson of any wrongdoing, but will say his wife breached the Assembly's code of conduct.

However, as Mrs Robinson retired from public life in late 2009, there is no scope for bringing any sanctions against her.

The long-awaited report by the Assembly's standards and privileges committee is expected to be published imminently.

The probe was launched in 2010 after Mrs Robinson, a former DUP MP, obtained thousands of pounds from property developers to help her then 19-year-old lover Kirk McCambley secure the lease on a south Belfast cafe.

It investigated Mr and Mrs Robinson's conduct as MLAs.

The committee met in closed session yesterday to discuss the report.

It is understood committee members were allowed to examine its findings earlier this week, but were not allowed to take copies away. One source said members had been required to sign forms pledging not to discuss its contents ahead of its publication.

However, sources told this newspaper that Mr Robinson had been cleared of infringing the Assembly's code of conduct.

"It doesn't find any fault with Peter – indeed, it doesn't even find grounds to investigate him," a party source said.

"The only finding with Iris is that she should have declared the money in the members' interests."

The source said the breach was at the lower end of the scale.

It is believed the report indicates that, by not declaring she received the cash, Mrs Robinson left herself open to perceptions of a conflict of interests. The investigation was launched after a BBC Spotlight documentary in January 2010.

The programme claimed Mrs Robinson had obtained £50,000 from two developers, Fred Fraser and Ken Campbell, to help Mr McCambley secure a tender for the Lock Keeper's Inn.

She also allegedly asked her teenage lover for a £5,000 cut of the money for herself.

It also claimed Mr Robinson knew about his wife's financial dealings but did not tell the relevant authorities.

The committee's report was launched in 2010 but was delayed by a PSNI investigation. The Public Prosecution Service did not bring any charges against Mrs Robinson. Earlier this year it emerged the report had been completed by last November, but was being delayed by a legal challenge from Mrs Robinson's solicitor.

Mrs Robinson had previously been cleared of any wrongdoing by a report commissioned by Castlereagh Borough Council.

Mr Robinson had also been cleared of potentially breaching the ministerial code by an inquiry led by Paul Maguire QC in the weeks after the programme was broadcast.

Profile

Iris Robinson withdrew from public life in late 2009, shortly before it emerged she had borrowed £50,000 from two property developers to fund her then 19-year-old lover's business venture.

She had been a high-profile DUP councillor, MLA and MP.

Mrs Robinson was first elected to Castlereagh Borough Council in 1989.

She was elected to the Assembly in 1998 and became MP for Strangford at the 2001 general election, replacing the UUP's John Taylor. She was re-elected in 2005.

An affair that rocked a marriage... and a government

It was perhaps the biggest scandal to rock Stormont, a stranger-than-fiction tail of sex and money, involving Northern Ireland's first couple.

It finished one political career and left another in the balance, with Peter Robinson briefly stepping aside as First Minister to clear his name.

For a few days the saga even threatened to bring down the Assembly.

The Spotlight revelations of January 2010, which exposed Iris Robinson's dealings with her then teenage lover Kirk McCambley, shook the political world.

It was all the more remarkable because Mrs Robinson – a devout Christian – had been so virulent in her damnation of other "sinners", at one point even moralising about Hillary Clinton staying with Bill through all his infidelities.

The story goes all the way back to early 2008 when Mrs Robinson was shaken by the death of a close friend, east Belfast butcher Billy McCambley. She had made a promise to look out for his 19-year-old son, Kirk.

Gradually the pair grew closer and, by the summer and despite a 40-year age gap, they were involved in a sexual relationship.

In June 2008, Mrs Robinson found a business venture for her young lover.

Castlereagh Borough Council, where she had been a councillor since 1989, was looking for a tenant for a cafe being built on the banks of the Lagan in Belfast.

Mrs Robinson obtained £50,000 from two property developers, Fred Fraser and Ken Campbell, to fund the project. She asked for a £5,000 cut of the cash for herself.

However, she failed to register her dealings at Stormont and Westminster, as required by law.

In August, Mr McCambley was awarded the lease of the cafe. Mrs Robinson was present as Castlereagh council authorised the deal – but did not declare an interest.

By the autumn the pair's relationship had ended. Mrs Robinson asked Kirk to return the money.

The next development came the following March, when Mr Robinson found out about his wife's affair. That night she tried to take her own life. By late December, and amid growing rumours in political circles, Mrs Robinson announced she was quitting politics.

In a television interview, Mr Robinson said he had been "deeply hurt" but said he had forgiven his wife and they would try and save their marriage.

Yesterday's long-awaited report probably marks the end of the matter – at least in the public arena.

No further inquiries or reports are scheduled, and the DUP will hope the story quietly slips off the news agenda again.

Further reading

A very public return to the limelight as Iris Robinson meets Queen

Nuala McKeever: So, who was Kirk McCambley?

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson bought land for £5

Playgirl boss flies in to find Iris Robinson lover Kirk McCambley

Readers of gay mag Attitude to go wild for Kirk McCambley?

Iris Robinson scandal: Kirk McCambley 'replaced his late father in every sense'

Iris Robinson's lover, Kirk McCambley, becomes instant gay pin-up

Robinson 'appalled' at TV claims

Gay lifestyle is 'abomination' not a mental disorder: Iris

Iris Robinson: gays more vile than child abusers

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