The Iris Robinson post: my first draft…

8 01 2010

[The redacted version of this post is here. The below is my first draft. With Spotlight now aired, I thought it was worth posting.]

What of this business Mrs Robinson urged people to invest in? In Iris’s statement, she said:

I encouraged friends to assist him (her lover) by providing financial support for a business venture.

I accept that. However there is further background to that side of the story – money from the public purse has gone into helping to make this business a reality. As a result there is a strong public interest issue to pursue here.

The business in question is the cafe in the Lock-keepers Inn at the Lagan Valley towpath. Iris’s ex-lover, who jointly runs this businesses, is a young man called Kirk McCambley (for the avoidance of doubt, he is identified in the link below).

Castlereagh Borough Council (supported by the EU Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme, administered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment) constructed the building which houses this young man’s business. This is the launch release from the council website.

It is widely understood that Iris Robinson is an influential figure in Castlereagh council. And while I am not alleging impropriety, I have no doubt that the ratepayers of Castlereagh will want to be reassured that the process behind the divestment of their money was completely transparent. And I have no doubt that Castlereagh Borough Councillors will also want to reassure ratepayers that Kirk McCambley did not receive any personal advantage / preferential treatment from public servants due to his relationship with Mrs Robinson.

These are some questions which have occurred to me:

  • How did this investment in building work come about? What was the precise amount of public money involved? When was it greenlighted?
  • Did this young man produce a business plan which then unlocked investment? Or did the council create the business and invite private individuals to operate it?
  • Did lobbying from any quarter take place on this young man’s behalf?
  • Was there an open, competitive tender at any stage relating to this business? If so, how many people responded to the tender?
  • Has Castlereagh council assisted this business in any other way?
  • Has the process involved been subject to internal audit?
  • Is the council completely satisfied that all matters relating to this business have been effected properly and in the ratepayers best interest?

I haven’t posted this to cause anxiety to anyone, the personal peccadilloes behind this affair are irrelevant. Were there no whiff of public moneys involved, I would not have posted this.  I feel that there is a strong public interest issue here which must be satisfied.

PS. I have no idea what’s in the Spotlight programme. So I don’t know if this is touched upon by the BBC.

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