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Iris Robinson lover's lease probe sparks call for code of conduct for all councillors

Alliance demands stricter guidelines

By Noel McAdam

Alliance councillors are urging the Assembly to introduce a mandatory local government code of conduct following the Castlereagh investigation into the lease granted to Iris Robinson's ex-lover.

Alliance members in Castlereagh have also complained to the borough's mayor Jim White and chief executive Stephen Reid over the way they were treated when the long-awaited report was delivered on Thursday night.

The three Alliance representatives asked for time to read the 35-page report before a vote at a behind-closed-doors council meeting on Thursday, and then abstained rather than support its recommendations.

Asked if they had been "bounced", Alliance group leader Michael Long said afterwards: "It was just railroaded through. We didn't even have time to bounce.

"One of the things we are now asking for is a mandatory code of conduct for councillors rather than the current voluntary guidelines which are rather vague."

Alliance councillors raised doubts in May when the consultants behind the report, Deloitte, gave a presentation to council members - again without the Press or public being present - but were not given a copy of the report.

This week copies of the final report were handed out and the DUP group leader Jimmy Spratt said a vote would be taken on its acceptance, which followed a short time later, with 15 votes for and the three abstentions.

The report into the lease given to Mrs Robinson's former lover Kirk McCambley - made public yesterday - supports a mandatory code of conduct to be included in a new ethical standards framework for town halls, with the Ombudsman's office tasked with imposing sanctions over any breach.

"The introduction of this mandatory code of conduct would appropriately reinforce the requirements placed upon the councillors within all councils," it said.

Mr Spratt hit back, however. He said: "There are some who attempted to advance their own political agenda behind a smokescreen of mud-slinging and rumour-mongering associated with this issue. Those people now have absolutely no basis for their vindictive campaign and their motives are now exposed."

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