Page last updated at 10:04 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Up close and personal - Robinson inquiries

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

When Peter Robinson announced on 11 January he was standing aside as first minister for up to six weeks, he said it was to clear his name over stories about his wife's finances.

Since then a series of inquiries and investigations into Iris Robinson's financial activities and what her husband knew about them have been announced.

After the BBC Spotlight programme detailed the allegations, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness asked whether there had been a breach of the assembly's ministerial code.

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

Mr Robinson himself also quickly sought a barrister's opinion on whether he had broken assembly rules and also asked the Westminster Standards Committee to set up an inquiry.

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


Another investigation is being carried out by the Northern Ireland Assembly's Standards and Privileges Committee.

It said it would investigate the Robinsons' conduct to see if any breaches of the assembly's code occurred.

However, that inquiry is likely to be delayed after the police said they had launched a criminal investigation into the financial dealings of Iris Robinson.

The investigation will be carried out by the organised crime branch.

In a statement, a police spokesman said: "Police can confirm that a criminal investigation has been launched into allegations made in a BBC Spotlight programme broadcast on 7 January 2010.

The Robinson Inquiries

Legal opinion sought by Martin McGuinness

Legal opinion sought by Peter Robinson

Inquiry by Castlereagh Borough Council

Inquiry sought by Alliance Party, Castlereagh

NI Assembly Standards and Privileges Committee Inquiry

Westminster Standards Committee Inquiry

Investigation by police organised crime branch

"The investigation will seek to establish whether any criminal offence has been committed by Iris Robinson, MP, MLA and by any other person referred to in the programme.

"The investigation is led by Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb who is head of the police service's organised crime branch, which specialises in complex financial investigations."

Mrs Robinson's financial dealings are also being investigated by Castlereagh Borough Council.

The council wants the inquiry to examine whether it suffered financial loss by awarding the lease for the Lock Keepers Inn to Mrs Robinson's former lover, Kirk McCambley.

Mrs Robinson procured money from two developers to help him open the cafe, then attended a council meeting when the lease was awarded without declaring an interest.

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

While legal opinions may be arrived at relatively quickly, it is likely at least some of the inquiries will take longer than the six-week period of Mr Robinson's first ministerial exile.

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