Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

DUP disclose part of Peter Robinson legal advice

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

The DUP has disclosed part of the legal advice Peter Robinson was given after allegations about his wife's finances.

The BBC alleged that the first minister did not report his wife's financial dealings to the authorities despite the obligations of the ministerial code.

Mr Robinson had said "legal impediments" prevented him from making the legal advice telling him he had not breached the code public.

Part of that advice has now been shown to a journalist.

It was disclosed after criticism from Sir Christopher Kelly, who led an inquiry into the issue of MPs' expenses at Westminster.

It states: "I'm unable to conclude that the First Minister has breached the ministerial code or the ministerial code of conduct or the pledge of office."

Sir Christopher, who visited Belfast on Wednesday, said he thought doubt would remain over the first minister's role until the full report was published.

DUP sources have also indicated that difficulties surrounding the release of the report may relate to references to Mr Robinson's wife, Iris.

Mrs Robinson resigned as an MP and member for the Northern Ireland Assembly after allegations about her dealings with property developers were revealed in a BBC Spotlight documentary.

The programme reported that Mrs 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.

The BBC has said it is standing by the allegations.

Mr Robinson 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.

Investigations

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

On 4 February, the DUP leader resumed the role after saying Mr Maguire had formed the opinion, that, going on the information provided to him, he had not breached the ministerial code.

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

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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