The Robinsons face more Castlebawn questions

Talking of further allegations, I’m confused about the Castlebawn business. Was there a conflict of interest over Castlebawn in Iris Robinson’s Assembly question and her husband’s written answer way back in 2002? Peter Robinson appears to be telling Liam Clarke in the Sunday Times that it was the DUP and not the Robinsons personally who paid Ken Campbell for the Newtownards advice centre premises which were sold on to a consortium linked to the former Castlebawn developer five years later.

Robinson has also dismissed suggestions by the BBC that he bought an office in Newtownards, Co Down, from Ken Campbell for £1 (€1.13) in August 2007 and later sold it for £200,000. Campbell was one of two businessman who gave £25,000 to Iris for McCambley to set up a restaurant. Robinson said the DUP paid more than £200,000. “The BBC were given the details including correspondence between me and [Campbell’s] solicitor, along with a copy of the cheque that was paid, and on that basis decided not to make the accusation [on air],” he said.

But in answer to the Observer and Guardian corrspondent’s questions, a DUP spokesman is quoted as saying:

Regarding the Robinsons obtaining the North Street property in Newtonards, the DUP spokesman said: “The transfer for the nominal consideration of £1 was to conclude a Trust arrangement in place at the time. Mr and Mrs Robinson paid the full price, stamp duty and all legal fees.” Asked if any money from selling the same property went into DUP coffers, the party spokesman said: “The North Street sale to Armstrong and others was an arm’s-length transaction for full value and the title was never held in the name of the party at any stage.”

If the Robinsons paid the full value and not £1, the profit on the transaction of £7909 was quite small as the property boom subsided, and Iris was then perfectly fairly able to claim rent on parliamentary expenses for premises she and her husband or the party no longer owned. A neat but unremarkable series of transactions over less than two years. But did the party benefit from the sale or not? It’s hardly surprising that this network of relationship raises suspicions in the present fevered atmosphere.

  • ABALL

    Why has nobody picked up that when Iris was saying on The Nolan show that she has a pyschiatrist friend who can turn gay people into straights, it was Selwyn Black she was referring to? Does he stand over those claims? He has a very interesting personal life!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Because, you complete berk, that psychiatrist is a man named Dr Paul Miller. She was not referring to Selwyn Black.

  • 0b101010

    I have to say, I found Liam Clarke’s full “interview” with Peter Robinson in the Sunday Times really quite interesting. Aside from the tired attacks against the media — finally getting a taste for their role — and a weak attempt to garner sympathy by numbers, it gives a glimpse behind the curtain without the level of avoidance and spin we’re more accustomed to. It’s unfortunate that it always takes a looming exeunt before most politicians find that level of clarity.

    That said, it also stands out as yet another example of journalists maintaining far too cozy a relationship with the politicians they’re reporting on. Some of the questions — e.g. the “handshake” — come so far out of left-field that they could only have been prompted in advance.

    It doesn’t take too much reading between the lines to see that Robinson is on his way out and wants to take an agreement on P&J with him. Just as with big Ian, there are clear advantages to the DUP slipping big decisions through with a leader on his way out the door. (They could have avoided all of this had they not built up the otherwise tame issue of devolution of P&J into a divisive bargaining chip.)

    I also remain convinced his meeting with party officers about the media shaking the tree “until they could find something which would fall out” was more a warning than a lament — which could go some way to explaining how Arlene ended up being parachuted into the duties of acting First Minister.

    If he is leaving, then it’s not of any public interest in the short term, but it’s also easy to speculate their marriage is over. There has been nothing in his language to date that would suggest otherwise. It might be bluster, but if Iris intends to tell her story herself at some point, Peter appears fairly confident that there won’t any muck on him.

    His party’s dealings with the developers, including Castlebawn, certainly appear shady but are probably legally ambiguous enough to stay too slippery to pin to anyone. I’m not convinced that there are any local politicians of stature pristine enough to take up that particular crusade, so the DUP probably consider themselves somewhat safe in that regard.

    I also agree with Robinson that a good, hard look needs to be had at Selwyn Black. A councillor of Councillors would make for an interesting conduit. He was smack in the middle of all this and only decided to resign as advisor in December, for whatever reason. Is there any indication that even advised Iris to do the right thing? It’s extremely hard to reconcile his theological, military and professional background with his decision to blow the whistle through a TV show about his suicidal, mentally ill employer. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad he did, but he needs looked at.

    All else aside, I think there’s a serious question to be asked of him, and our system of government, about the cover up of Iris’ mental illness from at least 1st March 2009 until, as intended, the next elections. This simply isn’t acceptable.

  • Alias

    [i]The Democratic Unionist party leader said in an interview with The Sunday Times: “He expressed sympathy to me and put out his hand. I thought it would be wrong for me, in those circumstances, to do anything other than that.”

    The pair shook hands during a private meeting at Stormont. Even when McGuinness and Ian Paisley were known as the Chuckle Brothers, Robinson’s predecessor denied the Sinn Fein MP this symbolic gesture.

    “[McGuinness] very kindly sent me text messages, then voice mail messages and spoke to me privately about the issues,” said Robinson.[/i]

    Peter Robinson might have done better to have heeded Ian Paisley’s insight into the glib charm of the psychopath:

    [i]”Members should know for what type of people they are proposing to bend the rules. One of the saddest calamities in Londonderry was the death of Frank Hegarty, who was murdered on the instructions of Mr McGuinness.

    Mr Hegarty had worked for military intelligence and knew where some of the IRA’s most important arms and explosives were hidden in the Irish Republic. When the Irish police raided them the army, fearing that Mr Hegarty’s cover would be blown, pushed him away to England.

    Mr McGuinness then arrived on the doorstep of Rose Hegarty and told her that he wanted to talk about her son and how he could return. Twice a week for 13 weeks, Mr McGuinness dropped by, the family met him and they drank tea together. He assured the mother, Rose, that if Frank came home, he could sort the matter out and all would be well; a firm assurance for a mother’s heart torn about her son. She persuaded her boy to come home.

    A rendezvous was arranged by Mr McGuinness. Afterwards the body was found in a roadway in Tyrone, a bullet through the head.”[/i]

    McGuinness also exploited Rose Hegarty’s vulnerability for his own selfish purposes, befriending her and reassuring her that her son’s ‘difficulties’ could be sorted out if she persuaded her son to return to Northern Ireland. Indeed, he even arranged for Mr Hegarty’s own sister to unwittingly drive her brother to his execution.

    In reality, while using the glib charm of the psychopath to befriend the vulnerable family, he all the while planned to murder Rose’s son to ensure that he never figured out that Mr McGuinness had deliberately appointed a tout to the role of PIRA Quartermaster in Derry in order to betray Eksund consignment of weapons from Libya, and serve as the fall guy for the higher ranked touted who appointed him.

    That same tout, being a protected species, was never prosecuted for his conspiracy to commit murder despite prima facie to implicate him. The RUC planned Operation Taurus for the purposes of prosecution but a higher power intervened and Operation Taurus was abandoned.