10 Jan 2010

Devolution warning over first minister

2:05 pm on 10 January 2010

Politicians in Northern Ireland have been warned not to allow a crisis surrounding the future of the first minister to derail devolution.

Peter Robinson's position remains uncertain as pressure mounts on him concerning his involvement in the financial dealings of his wife, Iris.

NI Secretary Shaun Woodward said all parties had to ensure political progress in Northern Ireland did not move backwards.

Mrs Robinson is stepping down as an MP and MLA. She is also leaving the DUP. She could leave both her posts as early as next week.

Earlier this week, the BBC reported that Mr Robinson did not tell the authorities his wife failed to register £50,000 she obtained from two property developers.

He has asked officials at the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to investigate his conduct.

On Friday, Mr Robinson said he believed he had not done anything wrong.

The Spotlight programme said Mrs Robinson had obtained the money from two property developers, which was paid to her lover, Kirk McCambley, 19, to help him launch a cafe.

Authorities not told

The programme said the DUP leader had known about her financial dealings, but did not tell the proper authorities despite being obliged by the ministerial code to act in the public interest at all times.

The accusations followed a public admission by Mr Robinson that his wife had attempted suicide after her affair.

Mrs Robinson represents the Strangford constituency in County Down both at Westminster and at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Last month, she issued a statement saying she was leaving politics due to ill health.

The Robinsons were married in 1970 and have three grown-up children.