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Peter Robinson (Northern Ireland politician)

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Peter Robinson (Northern Ireland politician)

The Right Honourable
Peter Robinson
First Minister of Northern Ireland
Assumed office
20 October 2015
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Martin McGuinness
Preceded by Arlene Foster (Acting)
In office
3 February 2010 – 10 September 2015
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Martin McGuinness
John O'Dowd (Acting)
Martin McGuinness
Preceded by Arlene Foster (Acting)
Succeeded by Arlene Foster (Acting)
In office
5 June 2008 – 11 January 2010
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Martin McGuinness
Preceded by Ian Paisley
Succeeded by Arlene Foster (Acting)
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
Assumed office
31 May 2008
Deputy Nigel Dodds
Preceded by Ian Paisley
Minister of Finance and Personnel
In office
8 May 2007 – 5 June 2008
First Minister Ian Paisley
Preceded by Sean Farren
Succeeded by Nigel Dodds
Minister for Regional Development
In office
24 October 2001 – 11 October 2002
First Minister Reg Empey
David Trimble
Preceded by Gregory Campbell
Succeeded by Conor Murphy
In office
29 November 1999 – 27 July 2000
First Minister David Trimble
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Gregory Campbell
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Belfast East
Assumed office
25 June 1998
Preceded by Constituency established
Member of Parliament
for Belfast East
In office
3 May 1979 – 12 April 2010
Preceded by William Craig
Succeeded by Naomi Long
Personal details
Born Peter David Robinson
(1948-12-29) 29 December 1948
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Political party Democratic Unionist Party
Spouse(s) Iris Collins (1970–present)
Children Jonathan
Alma mater Castlereagh College
Religion Pentecostal
Website Official website

Peter David Robinson (born 29 December 1948) is a Northern Irish politician who is First Minister of Northern Ireland, and is the current leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). He has been actively involved in politics since 1970 when he became a founding member of the DUP along with Ian Paisley.

Robinson served as Paisley's Parliamentary Assistant at Westminster prior to assuming the role of General Secretary of the DUP in 1975, a position which he held until 1979 and which afforded him the opportunity to exert unprecedented influence within the fledgling Ulster loyalist party. In 1977, Robinson was elected as a councillor for the Castlereagh Borough Council in Dundonald, and in 1979, he became the youngest-serving Member of Parliament (MP) when he was narrowly elected for Belfast East. He held this seat until his defeat by Naomi Long in 2010, making him the longest-serving Belfast MP since the 1800 Act of Union.

In 1980, Robinson was elected as the deputy leader of the DUP. In 1986, he helped establish Ulster Resistance, a loyalist paramilitary group. Following the re-establishment of devolved government in Northern Ireland as a result of the Good Friday Agreement, Robinson was elected in 1998 as the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Belfast East. Robinson subsequently served as Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Finance and Personnel in the Northern Ireland Executive. Robinson was elected unopposed to succeed Ian Paisley as leader of the DUP on 15 April 2008, and was subsequently confirmed as First Minister of Northern Ireland on 5 June 2008.[1][2]

In January 2010, following a scandal involving his wife Iris and raising allegations regarding their financial affairs, Robinson temporarily handed over his duties as First Minister to Arlene Foster under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 2006.[3] Following a police investigation, which recommended that Robinson should not be prosecuted following allegations made by the BBC in relation to the scandal, he resumed his duties as First Minister.[4][5]

Again in September 2015 he stood aside to allow Arlene Foster to become acting First Minister after his bid to adjourn the assembly was rejected. Robinson resumed his duties on 20 October 2015.[6]


  • Background 1
  • Political career 2
    • Member of the DUP 2.1
    • Member of Parliament and Executive Minister 2.2
    • Leadership of the Democratic Unionist Party 2.3
    • First Minister of Northern Ireland 2.4
  • Political and personal controversies 3
    • Invasion of Clontibret 3.1
    • Ulster Resistance 3.2
    • Views on homosexuality 3.3
    • Planning application 3.4
    • BBC Spotlight investigation 3.5
    • FAIR censorship allegations 3.6
    • Pastor McConnell support and Islam 3.7
  • Personal life 4
  • Satire 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Peter David Robinson was born on 29 December 1948 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the son of Sheila and David McCrea Robinson.

Robinson was educated at Annadale Grammar School, now Wellington College Belfast in Belfast, and studied English and Mathematics at Castlereagh College, now part of the Belfast Metropolitan College.

Although Robinson's family had no background in unionist politics, he developed an interest in the politics of Northern Ireland as a teenager. This resulted in the publication of various political pamphlets, including The North Answers Back, which drew the young aspiring politician to the attention of Ian Paisley. Robinson initially gained employment as an estate agent for Alex Murdoch & Deane in Belfast but decided to accept a decrease in salary to become the DUP's first general secretary in 1975.

Political career

Member of the DUP

Robinson was General Secretary of the DUP between 1975 and 1979. He first stood in the election to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention on 1 May 1975 in Belfast, East. Although he started in fifth place, he failed to get elected and was overtaken by his running mate Eileen Paisley.[7]

Robinson was elected as a councillor for Castlereagh Borough Council for the Castlereagh C area in the local government elections on 18 May 1977,[8] a seat he held until his resignation from the council on 2 July 2007.[9]

Member of Parliament and Executive Minister

Robinson was selected as DUP candidate for Belfast East during the 1979 general election, a seat which previously had a big Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) majority.[7] He won the seat with a 19.9%[7] swing to the DUP and a majority of 64,[7] with Alliance Party leader Oliver Napier 928[7] votes behind, unseating the MP former Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party leader and UUP candidate William Craig on 3 May 1979.

He was re-elected to the House of Commons in 1983, 1986 (along with other unionist MPs, he resigned his seat in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 17 December 1985 and was re-elected in the by-election the next year), 1987, 1992, 2001 and 2005. In the 2010 UK general election he lost Belfast East to Naomi Long of the Alliance Party.[10]

Robinson served on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee from 1997 to July 2005.[11]

In the general election on 7 June 2001, Robinson's wife, Iris, joined him in Parliament as MP for Strangford. The Robinsons were the first husband and wife ever to represent Northern Ireland in Parliament.

Robinson was the longest-serving Member of Parliament for any Belfast constituency since the Act of Union in 1800.

Leadership of the Democratic Unionist Party

Robinson's electoral success was marked when he was elected Deputy Leader of the DUP in 1980. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast East on 20 October 1982 where he served as Chairman of the Environment Committee until it was dissolved in 1986.[7]

In 1986 he was involved, alongside other DUP leaders, in the launch of Ulster Resistance at the Ulster Hall, an event chaired by the DUP. Robinson was later photographed wearing Ulster loyalist paramilitary regalia of beret and military fatigues at an Ulster Resistance rally.[12] Ulster Resistance collaborated with the loyalist paramilitary groups the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association in procuring weapons which were used by these organisations in robberies and sectarian murders. The DUP later claimed that they severed links with Ulster Resistance in 1987.

Robinson resigned briefly as DUP Deputy Leader in 1987 when the Task Force Report, written jointly with UUP members Harold McCusker MP and Frank Millar and calling for a strategic unionist rethink in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was rejected by their respective leaders, Ian Paisley and James Molyneaux.

He was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum on 30 May 1996 and served in it until it completed its work in 1998.[13] On 25 June 1998, he was elected MLA for Belfast East in the Northern Ireland Assembly election.[14] He was subsequently re-elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2003 and again in 2007.

Robinson was Minister for Regional Development, which has overall responsibility for the Department for Regional Development (DRD), between 29 November 1999 to 27 July 2000 and 24 October 2001 to 11 October 2002. He was responsible for the introduction of free fares on public transport for the elderly and helped formulate the 25-year Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland and devise the 10-year Regional Transport Strategy.

Robinson was Minister of Finance and Personnel from 8 May 2007 to June 2008.[15]

On 4 March 2008, Ian Paisley announced that he would step down as Leader of the DUP and First Minister in May 2008.[16] On 14 April 2008, Robinson was nominated unanimously by the DUP MLAs as leader-designate with Nigel Dodds as deputy leader-designate and on 17 April 2008 they were both ratified by the DUP's 120-member executive committee.[17][18] He formally became leader on 31 May 2008.

First Minister of Northern Ireland

Robinson with Martin McGuinness (left)
Robinson meets with United States President Barack Obama at the White House on St. Patrick's Day 2009.

As he was nominated by the largest party, Robinson was ratified by the Northern Ireland Assembly as First Minister with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister on 5 June 2008.[19]

On 11 January 2010 Robinson announced that he was stepping down from the position of First Minister for a period of six weeks to clear his name over his financial dealings in the midst of the Iris Robinson scandal. Arlene Foster was designated to discharge the duties of First Minister until his return.[20] Robinson faced claims that he knew his wife had obtained £50,000 from two developers for her teenage lover but did not tell the proper authorities, leading to him asking the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly to carry out an inquiry into his conduct. After an OFMdFM lawyer advised Robinson that he had committed no wrongdoing, he returned to active duty as First Minister despite the ongoing investigations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Assembly Commissioner for Standards and Privileges. While the police investigation into the conduct of the Peter and Iris Robinson concluded in a recommendation not to prosecute in 2011, the Standards and Privileges enquiry remained incomplete three years after it was ordered by the Assembly. It was delayed as Iris Robinson was adjudged medically unfit to respond to the enquiry.[21] The report was finally completed at the beginning of 2014, but remained unpublished for a period due to a legal challenge regarding possible privacy concerns by the solicitor acting for Robinson's wife.[22] It was finally made publically available on 28th November 2014.[23] Section 13 of the report stated that the three BBC allegations against Robinson "even if established after investigation", did not breach of the Code of Conduct. Accordingly, the Commissioner did not give these allegations consideration as part of the investigation.

On 5 February 2010, Robinson and McGuinness oversaw the devolution of policing and justice powers from the British Parliament to the Northern Ireland Assembly, negotiating a power-sharing deal with Sinn Féin.[24] This process ensured that devolution in Northern Ireland was able to be fully completed.[24] At the 2011 Assembly election, both the DUP and Sinn Féin increased their number of seats. Robinson and McGuinness were sworn in for a second term as First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively shortly afterwards.

In 2012, Robinson was involved in the historic visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Northern Ireland, when she shook hands with Martin McGuinness. Robinson supported the event, saying, "We recognise that this will be a difficult ask for Her Majesty The Queen and a significant step for republicans. The process has required us all to reach out and take decisions outside our comfort zone. It is the right decision and a step forward for Northern Ireland."[25]

Robinson speaking at Titanic Belfast as Martin McGuinness looks on, 2012

Political and personal controversies

At the NI Investment Conference 2013 in Belfast, with Martin McGuinness, David Cameron and Theresa Villiers

Invasion of Clontibret

Main article: Clontibret invasion

On 7 August 1986, in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Robinson led a group of loyalists into the village of Clontibret in County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. The loyalists attacked the unmanned Garda station in the village and daubbed loyalist slogans on the walls. They then held a quasi-military parade along the main street and attacked two Gardaí. More Gardaí arrived shortly after and fired shots in the air, scattering the loyalist crowd. Robinson was arrested and held at Monaghan Garda station. He pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly and was fined IR£17,500 in a Drogheda court to escape a prison sentence. As a result, Robinson briefly resigned from the DUP deputy leadership.[26] There was also violence both before and after a court appearance in Dundalk, including Ian Paisley being attacked with stones and petrol bombs after Jim Wells and other Robinson supporters waved flags and sang loyalist songs.[27] At his trial the judge described him as "a senior extremist politician".[28][29]

Ulster Resistance

In November 1986, Robinson spoke at the

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Craig
Member of Parliament
for Belfast East

Succeeded by
Naomi Long
Northern Ireland Assembly
New constituency Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Belfast East

Party political offices
Preceded by
Office Created
General Secretary of the Democratic Unionist Party
Succeeded by
William Beattie
Preceded by
William Beattie
Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
Succeeded by
Nigel Dodds
Preceded by
Ian Paisley
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
Political offices
New office Minister for Regional Development
Succeeded by
Gregory Campbell
Preceded by
Gregory Campbell
Minister for Regional Development
Succeeded by
Conor Murphy
Preceded by
Sean Farren
Minister of Finance and Personnel
Succeeded by
Nigel Dodds
Preceded by
Ian Paisley
First Minister of Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Arlene Foster
Preceded by
Arlene Foster
First Minister of Northern Ireland
First Minister of Northern Ireland
  • DUP
  • Peter Robinson
  • Guardian Political Profile
  • Guardian – Special Report
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Peter Robinson

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d e f
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Robinson resigns from Castlereagh", BBC News, 2 July 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  10. ^ "Naomi Long beats Peter Robinson to win in East Belfast"
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Robinson is new NI first minister", BBC News, 5 June 2008. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ Belfast Telegraph report, 21 September 2012
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968–99 by Paul Bew, page 202
  29. ^ a b Profile: Peter Robinson: Poised to take reins from the Big Man
  30. ^ Wood, Ian S. Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA (ISBN 0-7486-2427-9), page 133
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^
  42. ^ Statement by Peter Robinson, 8 January 2010
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ Muslim rant sermon: Fury and hurt as First Minister Peter Robinson backs Islam row pastor McConnell Belfast Telegraph 29 May 2014
  47. ^ Ulster and Islam: Minarets and steeples, The Economist.
  48. ^ Belfast pastor James McConnell denounces Islam as the devil's doctrine at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle church sermon Belfast Telegraph 21 May 2014
  49. ^ Northern Ireland Muslim leaders accept Robinson apology Belfast Newsletter 30 May 2014
  50. ^ Northern Ireland's Peter Robinson apologises for Muslim comments The Guardian. 3 June 2014
  51. ^ Video on YouTube
  52. ^ "I'd love to be Gareth Bale says First Minister Peter Robinson" Belfast Telegraph 10 May 2012
  53. ^ [1]
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^ Belfast Telegraph


See also

Robinson's character on the BBC's Folks on the Hill television programme is portrayed as aggressive and constantly trying to get away from the Ian Paisley-Martin McGuinness so-called "Chuckle Brothers" image when he works with Martin McGuinness.[56] However it does not appear that he will escape a shared nickname as "Brothers Grimm" is catching on.[57]


On 25 May 2015, he suffered a suspected heart attack and was admitted to hospital.[55]

He is author of a number of popular books and pamphlets on local politics and history including: The Union Under Fire (1995); Sinn Féin – A Case for Proscription (1993); Hands off the UDR (1990); Their Cry was no Surrender (1986); Ulster in Peril (1984); Carson – Man of Action (1984); It’s Londonderry (1984); A War to be Won (1983); Self-Inflicted (1981); Ulster the Facts (1981); Savagery and Suffering (1975); Capital Punishment for Capital Crime (1974); Give Me Liberty (no date); Ulster—the Prey (no date).[54]

He owns property in Belfast and a London apartment. In 2014 he and his wife sold their luxury villa in Orlando, Florida.[53]

Robinson married Iris Collins on 26 July 1970; they have three children, Jonathan, Gareth and Rebekah. His wife has joined him as a councillor, a MLA and a MP. Their son, Gareth Robinson was also member of Castlereagh (borough). They were the first husband and wife ever to represent Northern Ireland constituencies in Parliament. His daughter, Rebekah, served as his private secretary for his Advice Centre in the East Belfast constituency. Hazel Kerr serves as the office's main secretary. He is a supporter of Rangers[51] and Tottenham Hotspur and has expressed admiration for former Spurs player Gareth Bale. Robinson is also a fan of his local Belfast football team Glentoran.[52]

Personal life

On 30 May, leaders of Northern Ireland's Muslim community met with Robinson at Stormont Castle and accepted his apology and his attempts to clarify the situation. He also accepted an invite to the Belfast Islamic Centre.[49] [50] After meeting members of the Islamic community he said he would be visiting again the Centre, a place where he felt welcome and respected.

In May 2014, Robinson was widely criticized after he told The Irish News that he supported Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Pastor James McConnell, who had previously made remarks about Islam.[46][47] In a sermon the pastor had stated "Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell." Robinson said that like the pastor he would not "trust them" for spiritual guidance, speaking of Muslims who follow a strict interpretation of Sharia law.[48]

Pastor McConnell support and Islam

According to a report on their website in 2007 Peter Robinson wrote to [43] Robinson's principal private secretary was found to have been involved, in February 2010, in trying to have criticism of the DUP's working relationship with Sinn Féin censored from FAIR's website. Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey asked whether this amounted to party political use of the office.[44] Seven months later FAIR's funding by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) was stopped following allegations of financial irregularities in the group. The Office of First and Deputy First Minister decided that the conclusions of investigations into FAIR's finances will not be made public, although the group, with support from the Ulster Unionists, began legal action to have the findings of the SEUPB investigation made public.[45]

FAIR censorship allegations

On 11 January 2010 Robinson announced that he was stepping down from the position of First Minister for a period of six weeks. Arlene Foster was nominated as his replacement for this period.[20] Robinson lost his seat in Westminster at the 2010 General Election.

On 8 January 2010 the BBC Northern Ireland programme Spotlight[39] reported on how his wife, Iris, had obtained £50,000 for Kirk McCambley, 19 at the time, while she was sexually involved with him.[40] On the day before the Spotlight programme, Peter Robinson had made an emotional statement to the Press Association, BBC, UTV and RTÉ in regard to the relationship and mentioned that there were no financial wrongdoings.[41] The programme maintained that when Robinson found out about the financial aspects of his wife's relationship he insisted that the money she had lobbied two property developers for and which she subsequently lent and gave to her lover be returned in full. It claimed that he did not tell the proper authorities what he knew about the transactions between the four, despite being obliged by the Northern Ireland Executive ministerial code of conduct to act in the public interest at all times. Later that day Robinson's solicitors said he was thoroughly satisfied that he had at all times acted properly and fulfilled all requirements, and would robustly challenge any allegation to the contrary.[40] On the following day, Robinson maintained that he had "learned from Spotlight for the first time some alleged aspects of my wife's affair and her financial arrangements" and that he would be "resolutely defending attacks on my character and contesting any allegations of wrongdoing".[42]

BBC Spotlight investigation

On 30 March 2010, the BBC reported that Robinson had purchased a piece of land from a developer for £5, enabling him to sell part of his back garden for nearly £460,000.[37] Robinson later claimed that the BBC were leading a smear campaign against him.[38]

On 28 May 2009 the Planning Service of Northern Ireland granted Robinson planning permission for six houses to be built in his rear garden on the Gransha Road[35] in the Dundonald area of east Belfast.[36]

Planning application

Robinson's wife, Iris, had said that homosexuality was an abomination and that with help, gay people could be "turned around". These comments came the same week that a gay man was badly beaten in a purported homophobic attack. A police investigation was initiated amid claims "her comments breached hate crime laws but no charges were brought."[33] Peter Robinson supported his wife's statements, saying: “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was The Almighty. This is the Scriptures. It is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won't allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views."[34]

On 30 October 2008, in his first extensive interview as First Minister (for Hearts and Minds on BBC Northern Ireland), Peter Robinson stated that homosexuality was against Christian theology.

Views on homosexuality

At a rally in Enniskillen, Peter Robinson announced; "'Thousands have already joined the movement and the task of shaping them into an effective force is continuing. The Resistance has indicated that drilling and training has already started. The officers of the nine divisions have taken up their duties'.[31] After the arrest of UR members for arms importation, Robinson described Ulster loyalist paramilitaries as "counter-terrorists".[32]

He was photographed wearing the group's paramilitary uniform at an Ulster Resistance demonstration. [30][29]

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