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Robinson's lobbyist son has 'access all areas' at Stormont

Lobbyist Gareth Robinson with his father Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson's lobbyist son regularly brings his clients to Stormont for meetings with ministers, MLAs and party officials, the Irish News can reveal.

Gareth Robinson appears to have access to Parliament Buildings – a privilege normally reserved for assembly members, party workers and staff.

The revelation has prompted questions about the appropriateness of the first minister's son working as a lobbyist and PR practitioner.

One MLA said a corresponding scenario in which a close relative David Cameron's was working as a lobbyist at Westminster "would not be tolerated for a second".

Recent guidance issued to assembly members by Stormont's Standards and Privileges Committee says members must register "any interests they have arising out of their interactions with lobbyists", however, to date no MLAs have made such a declaration.

 

A number of Stormont insiders have told the Irish News that the DUP leader's son is regularly seen at Stormont, introducing his firm's clients to ministers, MLAs and party officials. One source said the Verbatim Communications owner has been seen wearing a DUP-issued pass.

Both the DUP and the assembly have refused to say whether Gareth Robinson has a Stormont pass. Mr Robinson, who formerly worked for his father at Parliament Buildings, has also declined to answer queries from the Irish News.

According to one Stormont insider, the first minister's son is at Parliament buildings "almost on a weekly basis".

"It's no surprise to see him at Stormont and he appears to have an access all areas pass that allows him into parts of the building where are ordinary members of the public are forbidden," the source said.

SDLP MLA John Dallat said the first minister's son's lobbying activities would do nothing to enhance public confidence in the north's political institutions.

"Can you imagine if a close relative of David Cameron was working as a lobbyist around Westminster? It would not be tolerated or a second – there'd be an outcry," the East Derry representative said.

"Anybody in public life – be they councillors, MLAs or MPs – should have a clear idea in their head about public perceptions and the need to appear beyond influence. He should be seeking to distance himself from his father as much as possible – and vice-versa."

Gareth Robinson's Verbatim company came to prominence last year when the Irish News revealed that the DUP leader's son had been employed by Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions in an unspecified role.

Cyclone Promotions' sell-out Titanic Showdown bout between Carl Frampton and Kiko Martínez received £300,000 of public money. The promoter also had the most £35,000 policing bill for the event waived.

In the run-up to the fight, First Minister Peter Robinson asked the head of the civil service Malcolm McKibbin to explore funding opportunities for the event.

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