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Corruption scandal grips Northern Ireland
THE JAWDROPPING seq-uence of events surrounding Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Iris Robinson soliciting £50,000 from two millionaire property developers (Fred Fraser and Ken Campbell) has opened a Pandora's Box of corruption which goes right to the heart of the political establishment in Northern Ireland.
The scandal further weakens the fragile power sharing arrangements in the Assembly. Gary Mulcahy, Belfast Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), reports.
IRIS ROBINSON'S refusal to declare any interest when present at the Castlereagh Council meeting which awarded the tenancy to establish a café on council-owned property to Kirk McCambley, whom Robinson was having an affair with, threatens to bring down the Robinson dynasty.
The decision of First Minister Peter Robinson to invite senior political reporters to his home to make a statement on his wife's affair and attempted suicide was meant to distance him from the scandal and present himself as a victim in this saga.
But it has spectacularly backfired on him after the allegations made on the BBC Spotlight programme that the First Minister and DUP leader assisted his wife's attempt to cover up the fact that she had accepted money from developers illegally.
It is clear Mr Robinson made his statement on the eve of the Spotlight broadcast in order to throw suspicion onto his wife and not himself. Iris Robinson's ex-political adviser Selwyn Black alleges that Peter Robinson became involved in the consequent bid to give the money back to solicitors representing the property developers. This has now raised the question of whether the First Minister has broken the ministerial code which obliges him to act in the public interest.
Despite his failure to report Iris Robinson's actions the DUP leadership is for now continuing to back Peter Robinson as party leader, who announced that he will step aside as First Minister for six weeks to 'clear his name'. The move may not however prevent the collapse of the Assembly coalition as Sinn Fein is demanding an assurance in the coming weeks from the DUP over devolving policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.
What this scandal has unearthed has not just been the revelation of how out of touch the political establishment is but the extremely close relationship between it and wealthy business people.
Fred Fraser was one of the wealthiest property developers in Northern Ireland and has been involved in many housing developments in Castlereagh, a council area politically dominated by the Robinsons for decades.
Iris Robinson has also been involved in lobbying on behalf of Ken Campbell to secure him commercial developments in her constituency. If Iris Robinson can so easily access free money from property developers, then the next question must be asked - how many other councillors, MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) and MPs have close corrupt links to wealthy business people?
Business people don't give money to politicians for nothing. He who pays the piper ultimately calls the tune. The parties in the Assembly executive are responsible for procuring huge public contracts to private companies with a guaranteed profit. Their policies of privatisation, even if not directly linked to bribes or "donations", reward the rich at the expense of ordinary working people.
Instead, working class people are being told we must pay water charges, accept cuts to services, jobs and wages and that young people must accept mass unemployment.
The capitalist system, together with its political establishment, is utterly corrupt. The case for the building of a mass working class party with representatives who live only on a worker's wage and are fully committed to fighting for the rights of working class people has never been stronger.
Further updates and background material on power sharing, etc, see www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 12 January 2010:
Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party international feature
International socialist news and analysis