Page last updated at 21:55 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Robinson defiant despite pressure

Peter Robinson was speaking to BBC NI Political Editor Mark Devenport

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson has said he wants an inquiry to assess whether he has breached any rules over his wife's affairs.

A BBC programme asked why the DUP leader did not tell the authorities his wife had not registered £50,000 she obtained from two property developers.

Mr Robinson said he had asked officials to appoint a lawyer to investigate whether he had done anything wrong.

He said he would wait for it to be completed before deciding what to do.

BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme said Iris Robinson broke the law by not declaring her financial interest in the business deal.

She obtained the money from two property developers, which was paid to her 19-year-old lover to help him launch a cafe. She later asked him for £5,000 for herself.

The programme said Mr Robinson knew about her financial dealings but did not tell the proper authorities despite being being obliged by the ministerial code to act in the public interest at all times.


In an interview on Friday, Mr Robinson said he had asked officials at the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to set up an investigation into his conduct.

If those conclusions indicate that I should have caused a registration, then clearly there are decisions for me to take and I will not be slow in taking them.
Peter Robinson

He said: "Because I feel it is essential in the office of the First and Deputy First Minister that there should be no question of impropriety I have asked officials to engage a senior counsel who will be asked to look at the programme, to ask me any questions he or she wishes to ask, and to give an opinion as to what I should have disclosed or whether I have breached an obligation."

Mr Robinson also stressed that he believed he would be exonerated by an investigation.

"I don't believe that I have done anything wrong. I have acted properly at all times. I have subjected myself to investigation. I am prepared publicly to allow the outcome of that investigation to be known," he said.

"I am prepared to act in accordance with the outcome of that investigation and I believe that the public, who are fair in these matters, will be prepared to have me judged by a thorough investigation and legal opinion being given to us, rather than the smear and innuendo of the press."

However he added that he would "not be slow" in taking a decision if the investigation found that he should have acted differently.

"When the result of it is known, I am going to have to act according to the conclusions that are reached," he said.

"If those conclusions indicate that I should have caused a registration, then clearly there are decisions for me to take and I will not be slow in taking them."


Mr Robinson was also asked why, when he discovered his wife's financial dealings, he did not then advise her to leave her political offices rather than waiting until she was the subject of a media investigation.

He said he found out in December 2008 that his wife was seeking to repay money and he then asked her what the details were.

"I was told that she had committed to assist a young man in setting up an enterprise. His father had died from cancer," Mr Robinson said.

Iris Robinson obtained 50,000 for Kirk McCambley with whom she was having a sexual relationship
Iris Robinson obtained 50,000 for Kirk McCambley with whom she was having a sexual relationship

"She felt that he needed an opportunity in life and she had gone to business friends and sought to get support."

He added that he was told that the cheques had been paid directly to the new business.

"I insisted that the method of repayment was done properly through a solicitor and directly to the individuals who had lent the money."

"Post-Robinson era"

Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, has said he is seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Robinson.

Mr McGuinness said he was "shocked" by what he watched on the Spotlight programme and wants to discuss specifically the financial issues raised and the implications it has for the Office of First and Deputy First Minister.

Meanwhile the leader of Ulster Unionist Party, Sir Reg Empey, has called on Mr Robinson to consider his position.

He said: "Studying transcripts throughout the day, we have compared and contrasted the comments of the Spotlight programme with previous statements made by both Peter and Iris Robinson.

"We have also had a preliminary examination of the rules governing disclosure and it seems clear to us that we are moving steadily towards a post-Robinson era."

"The prospect of a plethora of inquiries going on for months, distracting the First Minister and leaving Stormont in a powerless state cannot be contemplated. The Ulster Unionist Party therefore believes that Peter Robinson should give very serious consideration to his own position as First Minister."

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