London, Jan 9 (ANI): Northern Ireland Unionist politician Iris Robinson's love affair with a teenager is said to have threatened to wreck Ulster's fragile power-sharing deal.
First Minister Peter Robinson, 61, who has been left shell-shocked, was in talks with lawyers amid claims that he failed to alert watchdogs when his wife allegedly broke parliamentary rules by arranging financial help for a lover 39 years her junior.
Iris, MP for Strangford, was given 50,000 pounds by two wealthy property developers, both family friends, which she handed to Kirk McCambley, then 19, to set up a cafe business she had identified for him.
The 60-year-old MP and wife of the Democratic Unionist leader faces allegations that she did not declare her financial interest in the business, despite sitting on the local council that awarded the tender to the teenager in 2008.
Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister and Peter Robinson's Sinn Fein partner in government, said he was "shocked" by the allegations and was seeking an urgent meeting with the First Minister.
The allegations were made in a BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight documentary on January 7, sending shockwaves through the province.
"I completely reject BBC Spotlight's attempt to implicate me by insinuation and innuendo. I am even more appalled by the inclusion on that programme of comments and conclusions made without any supporting facts," the Daily Express quoted the First Minister as saying "While I have learned from Spotlight for the first time some alleged aspects of my wife's affair and her financial arrangements, I will be resolutely defending attacks on my character and contesting any allegations of wrongdoing," he stated.
His insisted his wife had concealed from him both the nature of the donations and the illicit affair.
"If somebody is hiding an affair from you, it's probably not a surprise they are hiding the other arrangements relating to that affair," he said.
Iris was reported to be heading for a week's holiday in the French ski resort of Chamonix in the next few days.
She faced calls from the Alliance Party and the Ulster Unionist Party to step down as Strangford MP and Northern Ireland Assembly member immediately following her announcement last week that she was withdrawing from public life because of mental health problems.
Her husband is also accused of failing to alert watchdogs that his wife may have broken council rules as well as parliamentary codes.
The scandal broke on January 6 when Iris issued a statement admitting the affair with McCambley and revealing that she had tried to take her own life in March last year because she was racked by guilt.
The affair had ended four months earlier after the pair rowed when she demanded repayments of the loans.
The unlikely couple had become close after Iris comforted McCambley following the death of his father, Billy, a butcher, who was her friend.
Selwyn Black, a former adviser to the MP, who resigned over the loans issue, told the programme that Iris encouraged McCambley to bid for the tender to run a cafe at the historic Lock Keeper's Cottage, a site that Castlereagh Council was redeveloping.
Iris obtained two 25,000 pounds payments from developers Fred Fraser, who has since died, and Ken Campbell. Campbell has denied any wrongdoing.
According to the programme, at the time Iris was asking Campbell for the money she also lobbied on his behalf for one of his building projects in her parliamentary constituency of Strangford.
McCambley, now 21, said she had both cheques made out in his name but when she handed them over she also asked him for 5,000 pounds back in cash.
The council subsequently awarded him the contract to run the cafe.
However, it is claimed she failed to register her financial interest to fellow councillors. She also faces claims she did not record the two loans on her declaration of interests at Stormont and Westminster.
Black said the First Minister became aware of the situation and in December 2008 urged his wife to ensure that both loans were repaid to Campbell and to the estate of Fraser.
However, it is claimed he did not alert Castlereagh Council, the Stormont Assembly, Westminster or any parliamentary watchdog that his wife may have broken rules.
"They both knew the consequences of what they had been involved in and did nothing to address that circumstance. It goes right to the heart of credibility of government in Northern Ireland," Black added. (ANI)