Pressure mounts to publish report into conduct of Peter and Iris Robinson
Published 04/07/2014 | 02:30
Pressure is mounting for a Stormont report into allegations about the conduct of First Minister Peter Robinson and his wife Iris to be published urgently after a legal challenge was withdrawn.
The investigation into claims about Mrs Robinson's financial dealings was completed last November, but publication was delayed after her solicitor raised concerns.
The dispute centred on additional material in the draft report's annex.
Mrs Robinson's lawyer John McBurney had voiced fears that her privacy and health may have suffered if the material was made public.
Details of the delay emerged last week in an annual report from the Assembly's Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain.
It is understood some minor amendments have now been made to attached documents. It's been reported the final version has now been submitted to the Assembly Standards committee.
However, the summer recess means it will be the autumn before it is considered in depth.
The committee members will then decide whether any action should be taken and when the report will be published. Alliance MLA Anna Lo, vice-chair of the Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges, insisted it must be published urgently. "When the Assembly Commissioner informed the Standards and Privileges Committee last week that he could not publish this report due to ongoing legal challenges, I feared that it would be left in limbo for a considerable amount of time," she said.
"It is important that this report is published to improve the public's confidence in politics."
The committee ordered an investigation shortly after a Spotlight report on Mrs Robinson's financial dealings.
The former Strangford MP stood down in 2010 after it emerged she had asked two property developers for £50,000 to help her then lover, 19-year-old Kirk McCambley, set up a cafe, and had asked for a £5,000 cut of the cash for herself.
Mrs Robinson did not register her dealings at Stormont or Westminster as required by law.
She also failed to declare her interest when Mr McCambley was awarded the cafe lease by Castlereagh council, where she was a sitting councillor.
It was also alleged that Peter Robinson became aware of his wife's involvement in the business deal but failed to tell the proper authorities.
The report focuses on the Robinsons' conduct as MLAs.
Mr Robinson, who always denied any wrongdoing, briefly stepped aside as First Minister and was exonerated over claims he breached the ministerial code after the government's legal service, the Departmental Solicitor's Office, appointed Paul Maguire QC to look at the matter.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last week, Mr McBurney said the report's findings of fact were already well-known.
His concerns related to "annexures" which, he said, were "not strictly relevant".
Story so far
The Assembly's Standards and Privileges Committee ordered an investigation after a Spotlight report on Iris Robinson's financial dealings and relationship with Kirk McCambley. Last week it emerged the report was completed last November – but has not been published because of a legal challenge from Mrs Robinson's solicitor. It is understood the challenge has been withdrawn.