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New code means Robinson must declare son's lobbying role

Lobbyist Gareth Robinson during his time as a councillor with his father and DUP leader Peter Robinson

FIRST Minister Peter Robinson would be expected to declare his son's lobbying activities under new rules being introduced at Stormont.

Guidance for MLAs on dealing with lobbyists was drawn up by the assembly's standards and privileges committee earlier this year.

The move is designed to improve transparency at Stormont by bringing its code of conduct into line with other regional parliaments.

Under the guidelines MLAs are required to register and declare interests, including any dealings with lobbyists.

Mr Robinson's son Gareth runs his own lobbying and public affairs company called Verbatim Communications.

His clients have included Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions, Lagan Homes, Tughans solicitors and renewables firms Gaelectric, Lightsource and Bryson Energy.

In July, The Irish News revealed that the former Castlereagh councillor appeared to have access to Parliament Buildings – a privilege normally reserved for assembly members and party workers.

The revelation prompted one MLA to claim 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".

Both the DUP and the assembly refused to say whether Gareth Robinson has a Stormont pass.

The new Stormont guidelines, which do not come into effect until the next assembly mandate, would require Mr Robinson and other MLAs with close ties to lobbyists to publicly declare the relationship.

To adhere to the assembly's mandatory code of conduct members must draw attention to any relevant interest they may have which could be perceived to have an influence on assembly business.

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 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, the first minister asked the head of the civil service Malcolm McKibbin to explore funding opportunities for the event.

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