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Concerns raised before over Gareth Robinson PR firm

Gareth Robinson with his father, DUP leader Peter Robinson, following his election to Castlreagh council in 2011

QUESTIONS have been raised in the past about Gareth Robinson and the workings of his public relations firm.

Last year The Irish News revealed the former DUP councillor was part of the team behind boxer Carl Frampton's sell-out title fight in Belfast.

It prompted concerns over First Minister Peter Robinson not declaring a conflict of interest despite the event receiving £300,000 of taxpayer funding.

Alliance leader David Ford at the time said Mr Robinson should have declared an interest over his son's involvement.

However, Mr Robinson has rejected any suggestion that he should have declared an interest in the world title boxing match in the Titanic Quarter.

The DUP leader also insisted he was not lobbied by his son to provide funding for the 16,000-capacity event, for which ringside seats cost £750.

Gareth established his own PR company called Verbatim Communications in 2010.

Both Gareth and Cyclone Promotions, which organised the Frampton fight, had refused to answer questions about his role.

Despite the company specialising in lobbying and communications, Verbatim at the time had no internet presence or any contact details online.

However, following our reports the firm recently set up a single-page website with contact details, but no clients listed.

On paying a visit last year to the central Belfast address where the firm is registered, the office was unmanned and there was nothing to indicate it was the base for Verbatim.

Mr Robinson is not a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations or affiliated to the Association of Professional Political Consultants, the lobby industry's representative body.

Verbatim is also not listed on the website of the Public Relations Consultants Association.

The Irish News contacted the firm yesterday in an attempt to speak to Gareth Robinson.

A man who answered the phone said Mr Robinson was unavailable, and hung up when asked for his name.

Gareth, who is in his mid-thirties, is the second son of Peter and Iris Robinson.

He was elected to Castlereagh council in 2005 where he served up until his resignation from the DUP-dominated local authority in 2013.

Gareth previously worked as his father's parliamentary assistant up until the DUP leader was unseated by Alliance's Naomi Long in May 2010.

In addition to his seat on council, he served on the local authority's management team having succeeded his father and DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt.

In 2013 the Audit Office questioned Castlereagh council's decision to allow the DUP to have a special seat on its management team.

The watchdog said the move was not normal practice and could lead to misunderstandings or "perceived conflicts of interest".

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