Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson hints at another three years in charge during US mission

By Steven Alexander

Peter Robinson has hinted that he may stay in politics until 2016.

The First Minister has suggested in the past that he would quit between 60 and 65, although he later said his retirement would be governed by political progress rather than the calendar.

The 64-year-old DUP leader last night told the BBC in New York that he intended to see through the upcoming election cycle.

That cycle ends in 2016, with the Assembly elections. Mr Robinson will then be 67.

Mr Robinson and Martin McGuinness are currently in the US for a series of engagements to promote Northern Ireland. Last night in Manhattan, the First and Deputy First Ministers were due to have their first meeting since Mr Robinson's bombshell letter this summer withdrawing DUP support for the Maze peace centre.

Despite fraught party relations, the pair will be aiming to present a united front when they meet the man charged with resolving Northern Ireland's most divisive issues tomorrow.

US diplomat Richard Haass will chair talks in Northern Ireland next week in a bid to find a solution to parades disputes, rows over flags and symbols and the legacy of the past.

But the talks come in the wake of a summer of violence and a massive dispute between the DUP and Sinn Fein over the future of the Maze prison site.

After Mr Robinson's letter announcing that the Maze plans would be put on hold until there is public support, there were suggestions his previous versions of the letter had been supportive of a peace centre.

It was also suggested that a heated row with Sammy Wilson had led to Mr Robinson's change of heart – something the leading DUP MLA denied.

"Castlederg killed it off," Mr Robinson said, a reference to the republican commemoration of two bombers in west Tyrone last month that was debated in the Assembly. However, he also said there had probably been "about a dozen iterations" of the letter from America, and the Castlederg event "changed it".

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