Did MP’s letters to Secretary of State help nobble developer..?

THE Sheridan Group’s High Court judicial review of the Government decision to block its development plans for the Queen’s Quay site close to the River Lagan should be worth watching.

After the DUP’s Peter Robinson used parliamentary privilege to accuse the company of a connection to “IRA dirty money” (which it denies) the company’s bid was subject to a “due diligence” accounts review process. Sheridan’s lawyer says the company charged with carrying this out for the Government was “pressured”, but, according to David Gordon’s story, had not changed its mind.

It wasn’t divulged in court from what it’s mind hadn’t been changed from. But the Government initiated a second review, by Deloitte, so draw your own conclusions. After this “DSD said that it and Laganside had concluded that they could not “properly form an opinion” on Sheridan’s ability to deliver the project and so could not enter into a development agreement”.

It will certainly be interesting to learn what Finance Minister Peter Robinson wrote to then Secretary of State Peter Hain on the matter, given that Sheridan’s “preferred developer” status was subsequently withdrawn, despite the police telling company chairman Curistan that neither he nor his company were under investigation.

IIRC, Robinson never repeated his claims outside the legal safehouse of the House of Commons, presumably in order not to leave himself open to a libel action from Peter Curistan, who expressed his anger at the situation in January.

  • Pete Baker


    I’ll pick this post to comment on then..

    More background – from the Slugger archives – on the various financial dealings of Mr Curistan.

  • joeCanuck

    I dislike MPs who misuse Parliamentary Privilege.
    If they have the courage of their convictions they should be prepared to make such statements outside the House.
    Reputations can, in some cases, be unfairly irrepairably damaged.

  • Frank Sinistra

    If Robinson repeated the allegations in written form would the disclosure leave him open to the legal challenges he avoided by initially making allegations in the HoC?

    Could Robbo end up having to stand over his claims in the courts?

  • Billy


    Yes, if repeated outside the HoP, Robinson could be sued for libel and defamation of character. In which case he would have to prove what he said has some basis in fact.

    The fact that cowardly Robinson has not done so clearly indicates that he believes that he would lose. Otherwise, why is he afraid to
    “go public” with these accusations?.

    I agree with JoeCanuck’s point. If an MP makes allegations about people they should be required to back them up (as anyone else is). Parliamentary Privilege is merely an opportunity for certain MPs to malign people without having to produce any evidence.

    The DUP are past masters of misusing this privilege. Paisley, McCrea and now Robinson have all made allegations in the HoP that thye didn’t have the evidence (and guts) to repeat in public.

  • Frank Sinistra


    You may not have noticed in the very wordy and link heavy blog above but there is a disclosure demand in for Robinson’s correspondence to the SoS on this issue.

    He could be heading for the courts yet.

    Are bankrupts allowed to hold office in the north? They ain’t in the south.

  • Billy


    Sorry, didn’t see that bit about the documentation to the SoS.

    In answer to your question, Westminster MPs have to resign if they become bankrupt.

    I don’t know what the rules are regarding the NI assembly.

  • Irish Aussie

    Great way to attract investment.
    Business just love this sort of stuff.

  • mrpark

    Is it just me or have they built over the Odyssey car park in that photo? Seems rather stupid.

  • It’s a great advertisement for inward investment, alright. Come to Norn Irn, spend millions here and then get accused of laundering money for the IRA (or some other paramilitary organisation).

    Peter Curistan should look to the case of the McAreavey brothers who are still waiting for a retraction of otherwise libellous statements made in the House of Commons by Ian Paisley – one of these days their past deeds will come and kick these parliamentary miscreants up the backside…..

    (Of course, parliamentary privilege isn’t merely used for libel but also to set up people for murder!)

  • Cruimh

    Century City? Des Mackin?

    Well done Peter Robinson.

  • Gréagóir O’ Fráinclín

    Impressive model of the proposed scheme.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    So the opinion of one of the most senior cops in the country is of no value to you?

    Would you not be interested to learn who put Robinson up to this, and why he hadn’t the balls to state it outside Parliament?

  • Cruimh

    Gonzo – I have no idea what you are talking about in respect of the opinion of “one of the most senior cops in the country ” – what do you mean ?

    Way I look at it is that if someone associates with terrorists and if someone has a string of companies that have been dodgy, then that puts a big enough question mark beside their name as to make them someone with whom one should not do business.

    I don’t have a lot of time for “developers” – parasites – but developers who are chummy with terrorists ?

  • Belfast Gonzo


    PSNI Assistant Chief Constable for Belfast Duncan McCausland forwarded his copy of the email (copied below the PSNI email) to Leighton, who replied on Sir Hugh’s behalf.

    His letter stated: “I am writing in response to your email to Duncan McCausland of 4 April 2006.

    “Firstly I apologise for the delay in responding and, secondly, I can say that we are not currently investigating the Sheridan Group or Mr Peter Curistan.

    “I am sure you will understand the difficulties in our making public statements due to the setting of precedent.”

    Senior PSNI sources confirmed yesterday that the position remained unchanged.

    Said one senior officer: “Paul (Leighton) is a lawyer by training as well as a very experienced police officer.

    “When Duncan (McCausland) passed this up the line, he would have recognised its significance straight away.

    “But you can be certain he would have had a word with Peter Sheridan (ACC Crime Operations) just to be sure Mr Curistan was clean before committing himself. He’d also have run it past the chief (Sir Hugh) as a matter of course.”

    Curistan’s email had read:

    “Allegations have been made in Parliament (under parliamentary privilege) and in the media which have linked me with paramilitary organisations and with financial malpractice.

    “The allegations against me have seriously misrepresented and distorted the facts and, in the case of media reports, I have been obliged to take legal steps to obtain redress.

    “However, the legal process will take some time and, in the interim, I felt it important to give assurance to people like you in positions of authority and responsibility that these allegations are totally false and utterly groundless.”

    He added: “I can state categorically that there is no connection whatsoever, nor has there ever been, between myself or the Sheridan Group and the IRA.”

    But what would an Assistant Chief Constable know that a politician in a party with suspected links to other property developers wouldn’t?

  • Cruimh

    Are you serious Gonzo or taking the P ?

    “I can say that we are not currently investigating the Sheridan Group or Mr Peter Curistan. ” is not an “ opinion
    -it is a statement which is meaningless in the context of what we are discussing. All it says is that he/they were not being investigated in 2006.

    So what ? If he said something along the lines of ‘we have investigated the Sheridan Group and Mr Peter Curistan and found nothing ‘ I might be interested. But really, It’s a carefully worded statement of nothing.

    If The Sheridan and Curistan have not been investigated, how the heck can Leighten say anything meaningful ?

    Whereas we DO have the two things mentoned

    1) crooked practises Century House
    2) assocation with a convicted terrorist.

  • Cruimh

    Whoops – that should of course read as “century city”.

  • Cruimh

    “I can state categorically that there is no connection whatsoever, nor has there ever been, between myself or the Sheridan Group and the IRA.”

    Des Mackin, convicted member of the IRA, is a link.