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Council will hold external investigation

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Pacemaker Press 13-01-2010:Castlereagh Council meets over Robinson story . Castlereagh Council  had a meeting to decide on the terms of its inquiry into the conduct of Iris Robinson. Mr Copeland,  chaired Wednesday's night's council meeting.Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Pacemaker Press 13-01-2010:Castlereagh Council meets over Robinson story . Castlereagh Council had a meeting to decide on the terms of its inquiry into the conduct of Iris Robinson. Mr Copeland, chaired Wednesday's night's council meeting.Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Pacemaker Press 13-01-2010:Castlereagh Council meets over Robinson story . Castlereagh Council had a meeting to decide on the terms of its inquiry into the conduct of Iris Robinson. Mr Copeland, chaired Wednesday's night's council meeting.Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Castlereagh Borough Council last night unanimously agreed to hold an external investigation into its decision to award a catering contract to Iris Robinson's teenage lover.

At the quick meeting to agree the terms of reference, members agreed the inquiry should investigate if the council had incurred any financial loss as a result of the lease at the Lock Keeper's Inn being awarded to Kirk McCambley.

And the council chamber - which was also missing Councillor Gareth Robinson, who sent his apologies - highlighted how quickly two decades of public service could be undone.

Mrs Robinson's brass name plate was notably absent from its usual spot in the chamber where she began her political life. It was removed before the formal announcement that she had resigned her seat was made.

The agreed inquiry will also investigate if there was any impropriety in the actions of council officers and elected members and if they complied with local government legislation.

Last week it was reported by the BBC Spotlight programme that while a councillor, MP and MLA, Mrs Robinson procured money from two developers to help her teenage lover open the Lock Keeper's Inn cafe in south Belfast.

Councillor Robinson then attended the August 2008 Castlereagh Council meeting during which the cafe lease was awarded to Kirk McCambley. Spotlight alleged Councillor Robinson broke the code of conduct by failing to declare a financial interest.

In an official statement Castlereagh Borough Council said “an independent external team of consultants” will carry out the investigation.

Under the terms of reference this team will also make recommendations to the council on how its own processes could be improved in future, and will also have the ability to revise the terms as the investigation is on-going.

The terms were read out by the acting chief executive, who acknowledged they had been drawn up with advice from the local government auditor.

Alliance Councillor Michael Long, whose party had earlier called for an independent inquiry, said: “We as a group are pleased to see that the council is seeking an independent inquiry. This is important to ensure that public confidence is restored in Castlereagh.”

Belfast Telegraph