Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Peter and Iris Robinson: a love that started to blossom in their days at college

Iris and Peter Robinson pictured on their wedding day
Iris and Peter Robinson
Back in the saddle: Iris Robinson MP MLA by a hazard sign in Comber to alert drivers to horses and riders. All too often these signs are being ignored, putting lives in danger, says Mrs Robinson. She has called for improved facilities for horses and riders on local roads

Peter and Iris Robinson met at Cregagh Technical College in east Belfast when she was 16.





“He was very handsome, he stood out from the other boys,” she recalled in a 2008 interview.

In this same interview with the Sunday Tribune Mrs Robinson spoke frankly about long-standing rumours that her husband had beaten her.

“This malicious lie was started by the Government in an attempt to blacken Peter's name when he was protesting at the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

“It took root because I was in hospital 17 times during that period with gynaecological problems,” she said.

Her involvement in frontline DUP politics began alongside her MP husband as a fellow Castlereagh councillor from the 1980s.

But she soon established a reputation as a major electoral force in her own right, in no small part due to her record of constituency work.

Strangford — next to her husband's East Belfast base — was steadily turned into DUP territory. Her victory there in the 2001 General Election was one of the key steps in the party's march to the top of unionism.

In 2007 four of the six Strangford MLA seats were won by the DUP.

Poll-topping Iris Robinson was made chair of the health committee in the new Assembly, although she did admit later to some “disappointment” at not being offered a ministerial postition.

Her enthusiasm to take on UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey — and defend her then Finance Minister husband's budget — led to angry clashes in the chamber.

Her remarks on one occasion led to her being excluded by Speaker William Hay, a party colleague.

Mrs Robinson was dubbed the unofficial First Lady of Northern Ireland when her husband took the top Stormont job in 2008.

In an interview late last year, she said of her marriage: “We have been very blessed. Peter's my best friend and I care greatly about him.”

She also said: “I don't think I could ever retire. I just hope that ageism isn't something that creeps in to any election that I stand in. I can do a day's work to match any man.”

Just a few weeks later she was announcing the end of her political career due to severe depression.

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