'Cleared' Robinson resumes First Minister role

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Under-pressure DUP leader Peter Robinson resumed his role as Northern Ireland's First Minister tonight after saying he had been cleared of breaching his code of office over the financial scandal surrounding his wife, Iris.

Mr Robinson, who is locked in crucial talks to save the Stormont power-sharing government, stepped down temporarily from the job last month after Mrs Robinson secured £50,000 to set her teenage lover up in business.

Tonight he said a legal review had ruled he had not breached his ministerial code over allegations raised in a BBC programme that he should have informed the authorities of his wife's financial dealings.

Confirming that he was replacing temporary First Minister Arlene Foster, he said: "I welcome the QC's detailed advice which follows a thorough and comprehensive examination of all the issues raised in the Spotlight programme that, on the material provided, his considered view was that there were no breaches whatsoever by me of the Ministerial Code, the Ministerial Code of Conduct, the Pledge of Office and the seven principals of public life."

Mr Robinson stepped down on January 11, announcing that his absence could last as long as six weeks while the legal review began the process of clearing his name.

He said the period would also allow him space to support his family and to work on talks to find a devolution deal with Sinn Fein.

Tonight, three weeks after he stepped down, Mr Robinson said he had informed the Assembly Speaker, Willie Hay, that he was to resume his role as First Minister following the legal opinion sought by the Departmental Solicitor's Office from Senior Crown Counsel.

In tonight's statement, Mr Robinson said of the review by QC Paul Maguire: "His advice supports my consistent contention that I have acted at all times properly and in full compliance with my public duties.

"I am therefore glad that, at this critical time, I can resume fully the functions of my office with confidence."

He still faces parliamentary probes, while the police are reviewing the claims made against his wife, the former MP for Strangford.

Mr Robinson added: "I am grateful to my ministerial colleague Arlene Foster for her diligent and highly competent work in fulfilling these additional responsibilities while assisting me at the same time in these negotiations over the last number of weeks and I look forward to once again fulfilling the role of First Minister of Northern Ireland."