Robinson, 61, said he would relinquish his position for six weeks to “take time for family matters” involving his wife, Iris, 60, and to allow investigations to go forward into his actions with respect to $80,000 in loans arranged by his wife in 2008 and given to her lover Kirk McCambley, who was 19 at the time.
Iris, a prominent lawmaker for the mostly Protestant unionists, admitted last week that she had had a seven-month affair with McCambley, and said she had tried to kill herself over the matter last March.
Popular attention in the province has continued to centre on Iris’ love life — and on two other affairs that several Belfast and London-based newspapers reported on Monday that she had in recent years. But, political repercussions have centred on the loans she took and on what her husband did when he learned of them.
The money was used to help establish McCambley as the owner of a cafe in a government-owned building in the parliamentary constituency she represents in Belfast. By handing his powers as first minister temporarily to Arlene Foster, the province’s enterprise minister, Robinson appeared to have avoided the abrupt end to his political career predicted by some in his own Democratic Unionist Party.
But whether he can return to office depends on the inquiries that he has asked the Belfast Assembly and the British Parliament to undertake into his role regarding his wife’s loans, as well as an investigation by an independent counsel he said last week he would ask government officials in Belfast to appoint.
Robinson insisted that he would soon be back in control of the government. In a statement, he described as “unfounded and mischievous” the allegation that he had broken financial disclosure rules by not telling parliamentary authorities of his wife’s loans after he learned of them in December 2008.