Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Up close and personal - Peter and Iris Robinson

Iris and Peter Robinson
A series of inquiries are being held into the Robinsons' conduct

As First Minister Peter Robinson steps aside in the storm over BBC Spotlight allegations, a series of legal opinions and inquiries have been called for.

Mr Robinson is taking up to six weeks to care for his wife Iris and clear his name amid claims over her finances.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has already asked whether there had been a breach of the ministerial code.

The initial legal opinion from the Departmental Solicitors' Office at the NI Assembly was "no".

It's understood that the DUP would like this response to be published.

However, Sinn Fein have not published it and official channels say it is confidential until the people who requested it make it available.

Mr Robinson has also sought a barrister's opinion. This might be available in the next few days and he may decide to publish that.

The Robinson Inquiries
Legal opinion sought by Martin McGuinness
Legal opinion sought by Peter Robinson
Inquiry sought by Castlereagh Borough Council
Inquiry sought by Alliance Party, Castlereagh
NI Assembly Standards and Privileges Committee Inquiry
Westminster Standards Committee Inquiry

But a number of inquiries set up in the wake of the allegations could take a much longer time.

Castlereagh Borough Council is meeting on Wednesday and will discuss the framework for its inquiry into the Robinsons' conduct.

The Alliance Party in Castlereagh Council has written to the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor General calling for a full and independent inquiry.

Mr Robinson, himself, has requested two government inquiries.

The NI Assembly's Standards and Privileges Committee is to investigate the Robinson' conduct to see if any breaches of the assembly's code have occurred. This is likely to be conducted by NI Ombudsman Tom Frawley.

The first minister has also asked the Westminster Standards Committee to set up an inquiry.

BBC NI Political Editor Mark Devenport said Mr Robinson wanted to clear his name and had stressed that he would be away from his post for up to six weeks... making it clear that he hoped to return in a shorter time than that.

Our correspondent said legal opinions would be available in a short time, but that the inquiries would require much more time.

"Some of these inquiries will be more thorough going than just the legal opinions sought on either side now," he said.

"These will certainly take longer than any six-week period."



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