Peter Robinson announced he is to step down as Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) just days after a new deal was struck to break a months’ long political deadlock in Stormont late November.
Robinson, 67, told Northern Ireland newspaper the Belfast Telegraph that he will not contest next May’s assembly elections and will step aside as leader, most likely just after Christmas, ending over 40 years in politics.
“I am telling you this now, because I think it would be disrespectful to the party membership if I was to go through a conference with the pretense that I would be leading the party into the next election. I think they have a right to know what the circumstances are,” he said.
Leader of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams extended his best wishes to the First Minister and said it would not affect his party’s relationship with the DUP: “Sinn Féin will continue to work with the DUP and Peter’s successor and with the other political parties as part of the effort to deliver on the recent agreement and to resolve outstanding issues from other agreements.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness commented on his good relationship with Robinson despite their political differences: “We have had a close and professional working relationship and, despite media perception, it has always been courteous and amicable,” he said.
In May 2015, Robinson suffered a heart attack, and, though he denies that his health is the reason for his decision, he admitted that the lifestyle he leads in his current roles does not allow him to follow the medical advice given to him after the attack.
Robinson joked that he may become a journalist when he retires. He intends to stay in Northern Ireland. ♦
This article has been abbreviated from the original, published on IrishCentral.