In the letter sent to the DFP committee by Mr Paul Tweed, who acts for Mr Peter Robinson, the well-known legal representative made reference to the fact I used Parliamentary privilege to make allegations against “his clients”. Of course Mr Tweed cannot even tell us who his clients are. This letter conveniently avoids the elephant in the room, namely that I have repeated- continuously- the allegations outside of the DFP committee and therefore without any protection.
Peter Robinson went to great lengths to complain about the use of privilege, yet let’s take a look at Mr Robinson’s past use of parliamentary privilege- which was used, naturally, to attempt to influence an open bidding process on behalf of his property developer friends. Unlike me, the DUP leader did not have the courage to repeat his allegations outside the chamber- nor apologise when it was exposed as a tissue of lies!
In June 2005 the Sheridan Group became the preferred developer of the Queen’s Quay sites, beside the Odyssey arena. This development would have brought many jobs into East Belfast and boosted the local economy, but Mr Robinson did not concern himself with that. He was more interested in helping his own circle of developer pals and given individuals such as Kevin Lagan had lost out in an open competition during the preferred developer stage, Peter Robinson decided that he would use Parliamentary privilege to try and poison the due diligence stage of the process. This of course was all done in a contrived attempt to assist the likes of Kevin Lagan and Paddy Kearney.
Peter Robinson stood up in Westminster in 2006 and alleged that the Sheridan group had links to “IRA dirty money”. Of course Mr Robinson cowered under the veil of parliamentary privilege to make these allegations- which were later proven to be baseless- and refused to repeat the allegations outside of Westminster. This is the fundamental difference between Mr Robinson’s use of privilege and mine. I have the courage to repeat my claims and challenge the First Minister to sue me, Peter Robinson hides behind privilege.
After his allegations Robinson continued to write to the then Secretary of State Mr Peter Hain and Minister of State for NI David Hanson, lobbying them to tighten the due diligence procedure. Of course Mr Robinson was so concerned with this because he wanted to get his own charmed circle of property developer pals back into the competition.
The letters sent by Robinson to former Secretary of State Peter Hain and former Minister of State David Hansen, demonstrate his desire to ensure the Sheridan group did not pass the due diligence stage. These letters are published here for the first time, thanks to a senior member of the DUP who was disgusted at Robinson’s behaviour in 2006.
Rather than bring jobs to East Belfast and boost the local economy, Robinson sought to abuse the use of parliamentary privilege to benefit his charmed circle. Whilst the then East Belfast MP should have been doing all he could to bring jobs to East Belfast, instead he was using his political mandate to try and influence a bidding process so his buddies could benefit.
In the High Court Judgement of Gillen J (Ref GIL7028) in a Judicial Review into matters arising around the bididng process for Queen’s Quay, the judge remarked that the allegations made against the Sheridan Group were “baseless”. It also became clear that neither the PSNI nor the NIO had any information whatsoever to suggest that the Sheridan Group had been involved in any form of criminality of financial mal-practice.
When Peter Robinson- and his lawyer Paul Tweed- bemoan the use of Parliamentary privilege, it is the height of sheer hypocrisy. Robinson did not use privilege to act in the public interest, but rather to assist his charmed circle of business buddies. Further to this he did not have the courage to come out from under the protection of privilege and repeat his claims.
I argue that I have never hid behind privilege. I walked straight out of Stormont and named Peter Robinson as one of those who were earmarked to benefit from a portion of the £7.5 million kick-back stemming from the sale of Project Eagle. I firmly stand over that allegation.