What’s the answer to Jim Allister’s point?

Mick quotes Jim Allister QC saying “Obtaining counsel’s opinion comes no where close to “independent investigation”, yet, strangely, no media correspondent seems to have challenged this audacious claim.” Well, Slugger did and laid out an alternative approach which could produce an interim result quite quickly. Whether that could be quick enough to settle the perfect storm now raging is a different question. Focusing on Peter Robinson’s direct involvement in the money issue, Eamonn’s interview underlines the question – why didn’t he insist that Iris tell him all about it when he “overheard her” making arrangements to pay back the money – weeks before the full breakdown and when she seems to have been able to take his prompts? Why did he not ask Selwyn Black all about it? Assuming he heard the names to whom the money was to be repaid, why did not alarm bells begin to ring loudly over possible conflict of interest even if the cheques weren’t made out to her? It was Jim Allister who raised the history of their connections on Talkback yeserday. Today David Gordon in the Belfast Telegraph spells some of them out ( link corrected, thanks) . And did Mr Robinson not know that the money was connected to the lock keepers’ cottage project run by his old bailwick Castlereagh Council? where conflict of interest was possible, to put it mildly?

  • I just posted on Eamonn Mallie’s interview thread, but it is relevant here:

    Spotlight claims the monies were originally one half loan, one half gift. The subsequent amendments to this arrangement appear to be divided into two stages. Firstly, the Church/Iris repayment plan, at which point there is no mention of Peter. Secondly, the KC/FF estate plan, which there is text evidence that Iris claimed Peter was integral in organising, while also stipulating that he wished to kept at a distance.

    With this narrative, Robinson is challenging the Spotlight version and Iris’ texts. His denials are contrary to the word of his wife, and SB, at a time when her health was not in question.

    I think the plan laid out by Slugger (very modest Brian) was ruled out of hand by Robinson as being too lengthy for his purposes. Although he didn’t put a timeframe on a Parliamentary Commissioner inquiry, he did bracket it with defamation action as being possible but not appropriate given the need to clear his name. Which goes back to the point that, as the accused, he cannot dictate the terms and timeframe of his trial.

    To the question “why did he not ask Selwyn Black all about it?”, one might easily add, why did Selwyn Black not demand a meeting to inform Peter of the risks he was taking. Any meeting should FOI-able, since it would have been between the FM and a paid advisor.

    “Assuming he heard the names to whom the money was to be repaid, why did not alarm bells begin to ring loudly over possible conflict of interest even if the cheques weren’t made out to her?”

    He really seems to trying the line that he recommended a repayment methodology with no knowledge of how much, from whom, to whom and in what context – against the text message evidence. We’ll see how that runs.

  • I think this may be the David Gordon link:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/questions-remain-over-funding-of-iris-robinsons-loverrsquos-business-venture-14629031.html

    It’s currently taking me to your post outlining alternatives.

  • Cynic2

    The issue of Counsel is a smokescreen. Counsel will only answer the questions put to him. We don’t know what those are but the DUP are clearly limiting them to the narrow ‘ethics’ issue and now the NIO have waded in to protect Peter. Who can trust OFMDFM on this?

    And this isnt just an ethics issue. Who will investigate the allegations to see if there are possible offences under the Prevention of Corruption Acts and the issue of money laundering?

    What other revelations will tomorrows press bring?

    Under these circumstances, how can we devolve policing and justice?

    The longer the men in grey suits in the DUP wait, the more damage is caused.

  • Gordon’s article says that:

    “In May 2007, the businessman’s firm bought 12 North Street in Newtownards.

    Land Registry documents show that the firm sold the property five months later to Peter and Iris Robinson.

    It is the location of Mrs Robinson’s Newtownards constituency office address.

    In May last year, she and her husband sold the North Street building to a consortium including property tycoon Adam Armstrong. He is listed in Land Registry documents as living in Gibraltar.”

    This allowed them to claim rent expenses, “A total of £8,000 was paid out in the first six months of the financial year, according to the Assembly’s most recent official publication of MLA expenses.”

    When Iris Robinson claimed that her controversial lobbying on behalf of Campbell in the House of Commons was not a conflict of interest, while not mentioning the £25k she did say:

    ““Peter and I have known Ken Campbell for many years. Indeed I have personally known dozens of those I have represented.

    “There is no requirement, legal or moral, for anyone to register whether they know an applicant for whom they are lobbying or not or whether they have done business with them or not as someone acting representing an applicant is an advocate and not the judge of the case.”

    The House of Commons Code of Conduct says this:

    “”It is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member’s complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof: and that in particular no Members of the House shall, in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment, or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect, which the Member or any member of his or her family has received is receiving or expects to receive—

    (i) Advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual, or

    (ii) urge any other Member of either House of Parliament, including Ministers, to do so,

    by means of any speech, Question, Motion, introduction of a Bill or Amendment to a Motion or a Bill or any approach, whether oral or in writing, to Ministers or servants of the Crown.”

    “92. The Resolution in its current form extends and reinforces an earlier Resolution of the House in 1947 that a Member may not enter into any contractual arrangement which fetters the Member’s complete independence in Parliament by any undertaking to press some particular point of view on behalf of an outside interest.[36] Nor, by virtue of the same Resolution, may an outside body (or person) use any contractual arrangement with a Member of Parliament as an instrument by which it controls, or seeks to control, his or her conduct in Parliament, or to punish that Member for any parliamentary action.[37]

    93. The rule regarding lobbying for reward or consideration applies equally in the case of benefits received by family members by blood or by marriage or a relationship equivalent to marriage. [38]”

    tbc…

  • (contd)

    and from the guidelines:

    “2) Past, present, and future benefits: Unlike the Register, which lists current benefits, or benefits received in the immediate past, the Resolution on lobbying of 6 November 1995 also refers, as does the rule on declaration, to past and expected future benefits and to indirect benefits. It is difficult to contemplate circumstances where any benefit received some time in the past, particularly an interest which has not been current in the past twelve months could be sufficiently relevant to be taken into account under the rule (see (4) below). Expected future interests, on the other hand, may be more significant. For example, Members expecting to derive direct financial benefit from particular legislation should, as well as declaring the interest in debate as appropriate, not seek to move Amendments to advance the expected future interest. The same consideration applies to other proceedings.

    3) Continuing benefits: Continuing benefits, ie directorships, other employment, and sponsorship, can be divested to release a Member with immediate effect from the restrictions imposed by the rule, providing that the benefit is disposed of and there is no expectation of renewal.

    4) “One-off” benefits: The rule applies to “one-off” registrable benefits, both visits and gifts, from the day upon which the interest was acquired until one year after it is registered.

    5) Family benefits: The rule includes relevant payments to a Member’s family, but any payment to a member of the family of any Member which arises out of the family member’s own occupation is not regarded as a benefit for the purposes of the Resolution,[43] although it may be declarable.”

    Sorry, a little detailed, but this could be extremely important. Nice work David Gordon.

  • [b]Boom, Bang a Boom Boom Bombe? [/b]

    [quote]Last year, Mrs Robinson rejected suggestions that she should have declared her 2007 property deal with Mr Campbell, when lobbying for his controversial housing development in Newtownards.

    In a statement to Sunday Life newspaper, she said: “Peter and I have known Ken Campbell for many years. Indeed I have personally known dozens of those I have represented.”

    “There is no requirement, legal or moral, for anyone to register whether they know an applicant for whom they are lobbying or not or whether they have done business with them or not as someone acting representing an applicant is an advocate and not the judge of the case.” [/quote] … http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/questions-remain-over-funding-of-iris-robinsons-loverrsquos-business-venture-14629031.html?startindex=-1

    Is not the exact opposite true in a public office position and particular so in an influential public office position? And if the opposite is true, and common knowledge to all and obviously implicitly supported by husband Peter, for it is inconceivable that he would not know of the very clearly expressed view, then do we have a “Houston, we have a problem” situation and smoking gun ……. Big Bertha Howitzer, actually?

  • Can anyone clarify that Ken and Gregory are not related?

  • Cynic2

    This whole narrative relies on the premise that, stricken with remorse at the affair and at the way she had betrayed her religious principles, poor Iris attempted suicide and has been unwell ever since.

    Well, we will see if that holds water.

  • danielmoran

    A few times in the last week, that it has been suggested in the media that we need to hear from Iris on this, the formula ‘suicide attempt’ was planned to be announced to head off such calls now. The Robinsons have have months to insert this claim for exactly this purpose. I don’t believe the suicide attempt ever happened.

  • JD

    “The Robinsons have have months to insert this claim for exactly this purpose. I don’t believe the suicide attempt ever happened. ”

    It is part of Selwen Black’s story. Besides if Peter Robinson made it up, he would have picked a better date that didn’t involve him heading off to work before the doctor turned up.

    That part of the story rings true, other parts however…

  • Just wondering if the delay in announcing Iris’s resignation was timed to avoid the need for a by-election.

  • PACE Parent

    Like Declan O’Loan I have posted on this elsewhere.
    This entire Robinson affair seems akin to the Watergate events of 1972 except that sex is also involved.
    http://www.bookrags.com/research/watergate-sjpc-05/
    Like Nixon, Peter Robinson seems to think that appointing his own investigator and dictating the terms and timescale of the investigation are going to solve his political problems.
    The main obvious difference in the two scenarios is that it was one of the Robinsons’ ex-employees Selwyn Black former RAF Chaplin who gifted this story to the BBC. This expose had nothing at all to do with so called “investigative reporters” sniffing out the story. The retrospective contributions of David Gordon seem badly timed when they may have had more value earlier last year.
    The arrangements between politicians and the media (Nolan etc) are entirely too cozy and parochial to allow either party to effectively fulfill their public roles.
    Where’s the FBI when you need them?

  • PACE Parent

    I am Damian O’Loan.

    Declan O’Loan has made no comment on this and his views are not to be confused with mine whatsoever. We haven’t communicated since the revelations.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Damian, aren’t you Declan’s son ?

    danielmoran:

    I don’t believe the suicide attempt ever happened.

    It’s tempting to believe this. The suicide story does not appear to completely add up.

    However, Spotlight reported that the following morning, two doctors were at the house (the family doctor, and another GP called in by Black) and both agreed that Iris would have to be hospitalized. I’ve no reason to doubt that part of the story, so that does imply that Iris’ mental state was serious enough for the professionals involved to advise that she be placed under medical supervision. Then again, of course, she wasn’t sectioned …

  • CS,

    Yes.

  • danielmoran

    ‘Then again, of course, she wasn’t sectioned’

    That’s my point. I think the phrase, ‘on the verge of’ will come to replace this attempt claim if it comes under serious examination in court.
    You can allow that Iris was depressed, but rather than ‘chemical imbalances in the brain’ type depression of the kind Stephen Fry deals with, Iris’s was more likely the knowlegde the high life for her was at an end, and her mailbox feedback from voters may account for that.

  • Miss Fitz

    Just one othr point Brian. As someone who has been through the breakdown of a marriage through infidelty, and dealing with couples now who go through it, I would have to say that that final admission is often the hardest one of all. People will deny having had affairs up, down and all around for some reason.

    I would say that this scenario is quite typical, where everything starts to go wrong, both emotionally and in terms of other elements relating to the affair. A warning shot is sent up and the innocent partner is often accused of being in the wrong. You would be amazed at how often that happens.
    Generally, over the course of several weeks and much histrionics, the truth begins to emerge. In this instance, I understand that a child of the Robinsons found a letter that exposed details of the affair and it was subsequent to this that the suicide attempt was made.

    I know its easy to forget it, but there is a human element to this story as well and it needs to be a consideration at particular points,

  • PACE Parent

    Miss Fitz,
    It is when those human elements are twisted to gain some sort of political or personal benefit that people, otherwise compassionate, loose their patience and tolerance. Eamonn Mallie so lost his “Cowardly Lion” local journalist fears that he asked Peter Robinson about the much repeated rumour of beating his wife. Those questions are not the type that unionists want answered. They want to know about accountability and integrity from their elected representatives not private details of their family lives. The two have been co-mingled in this unfolding story and sensible heads will continue to follow the money.

  • Miss Fitz

    Pace
    I’ve just listened to 7 Days, and while some people are following the potential money trail, there are others who are far more fixated on the moral line in this story. Indeed, that is what will topple Robinson as leader

    I think it was Roy Garland on 7 Days who asked ‘If Robinson cannot control his wife, how can the party expect him to control the country’ or words very close to those.

    David Timble says he has lost his ‘moral authority’. Reg Empey is talking about the ‘salacious revelaations’.

    You can follow all the money you want, but the moral and sexual nature of this scandal will be the parts of it that fixate the country and probably dictate the outcome

  • PACE Parent

    So Peter Robinson and Gerry Adams, leaders of the two most radical political parties, are both involved in morality dilemmas. While the public have been inundated with all kinds of interpretations by the media on both men’s problems the silence of the church hierarchy has been deafening. Oh that’s right Miss Fitz there is the inconvenient issue that the churches are not without their own problems when it comes to moral authority, disclosure and financial openness.
    I think that following the money trail will lead to a deeper understanding of the relationship between power and corruption and that includes the churches.

  • Miss Fitz

    I take it you didnt take the time to listen to William Crawley this morning?

  • PACE Parent

    Miss Fitz,
    Surely you are not suggesting that the Rev David McIlveen, (Dr Paisley’s media extension or mouthpiece) Dr Gladys Ganiel, a lecturer at the Irish School of Ecumenics and media Letter, Austin Hunter are examples of church hierarchy?