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Peter Robinson to take action against BBC

By David Gordon

Peter Robinson spoke last night of future legal action against the BBC while announcing his return to First Minister duties.

In a statement issued through his party Press office, the DUP leader revealed the verdict of the review conducted by Paul Maguire QC.

It had been commissioned by the Departmental Solicitors Office, which comes under Stormont's Department of Finance and Personnel.

Mr Robinson said: “I welcome the QC’s detailed advice which follows a thorough and comprehensive examination of all of the issues raised in the Spotlight programme that on the material provided his considered view was that there were no breaches whatsoever by me of the Ministerial Code, the Ministerial Code of Conduct, the Pledge of Office and the seven principles of public life.

“His advice supports my consistent contention that I have acted at all times properly and in full compliance with my public duties.”

The DUP leader also stated: “I am therefore glad that at this critical time I can resume fully the functions of my office with confidence. I will now move forward to the next stages of this process which I believe will also vindicate me.

“Once those stages are complete I will determine what legal action I should take against the BBC and others.”

A BBC Northern Ireland spokeswoman said: “The BBC stands by its journalism. We believe that the issues Spotlight uncovered during its investigation of several months into Iris Robinson were of significant public interest and were well sourced.

“The BBC conducts its investigations in compliance with strict editorial guidelines. This programme was a piece of responsible journalism and a matter of public importance.

“We are confident that the report was balanced and accurate. The Robinsons were made aware of the allegations and were given appropriate rights of reply.”

The spokeswoman also confirmed that the QC had had no contact with the BBC.

In a statement, the Ulster Unionist Party last night said: “Mr Robinson has today indicated that he has returned to office because his legal advice indicates that he has done nothing wrong. It would clearly be in the public interest for this legal opinion to be published in full.”

The UUP also referred to “ongoing investigations” on issues arising from the Spotlight revelations.

“We will await the conclusion of those investigations with interest,” it added.

While not at his desk as First Minister Mr Robinson remained in the political front line, leading party delegations in lengthy Hillsborough negotiations on the devolution of policing and justice powers. He also attended controversial talks last month in England with UUP and Tory Party representatives.

In his statement last night he praised party colleague Arlene Foster on her “diligent and highly competent work” as Acting First Minister.

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