Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

Secretary of State says Robinson 'has cleared his name'

Peter Robinson
Official inquiries into Peter Robinson's conduct are still under way

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State has said Peter Robinson "has cleared his name" in relation to allegations surrounding his wife Iris' finances.

Shaun Woodward said in an interview the DUP leader had no questions to answer.

Mr Robinson resumed his role as First Minister on Wednesday after stepping aside temporarily earlier this month.

The BBC alleged that Mr Robinson did not report his wife's financial dealings to the authorities despite the obligations of the Ministerial Code.

Speaking on the BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Mr Woodward described Mr Robinson as "an outstanding politician".

He said: "I think he has cleared his name. I think he has justifiably done so, everyone is entitled to do that.

"He is an outstanding politician, just as Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams and Nigel Dodds have been throughout this process and I'm looking forward to seeing the first minister and deputy first minister moving forward and ensuring that people get what they need in Northern Ireland, which is good government."

Formal investigations

The BBC Spotlight programme reported that Iris Robinson obtained £50,000 from two developers to help her teenage lover Kirk McCambley open a cafe business.

It said that she broke the law by not declaring her financial interest in a public contract.

It also reported that Mr Robinson did not report her dealings to the relevant authorities, despite being obliged by the ministerial code to act in the public interest at all times.

He stepped aside from his role as Northern Ireland First Minister on 11 January, saying he needed to clear his name in light of the allegation made by the programme.

He said he did not have the months or years it would take for the matter to be decided through court action or official inquiries and so quickly sought a barrister's opinion on whether he had broken assembly rules regarding his knowledge of his wife's involvement in the cafe deal.

The government's legal service, the Departmental Solicitor's Office, appointed Paul Maguire QC to look at the issue.

Two days ago, the DUP leader said Mr Maguire had formed the opinion, going on the information provided to him, that he had not breached the Ministerial Code.

The BBC said it was standing by the allegations made in the programme.

Separate investigations are being carried out in Mr Robinson's conduct by the Northern Ireland Assembly's Standards and Privileges Committee and the Westminster Standards Committee.

However, the Assembly inquiry was later suspended after the police said they had launched a criminal investigation into Mrs Robinson's financial dealings.

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