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Peter Robinson departure: Former foe Gerry Adams leads well-wishes

Martin McGuinness - 'Despite our political differences, I recognise fully the enormous personal contribution Peter has made'

Published 19/11/2015

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was among the first to wish Peter Robinson well in retirement after the Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader announced he would be stepping down.

Once implacable foes, the two were central to the landmark deal that saw a previously unthinkable coalition of Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists assume the reins of power at Stormont in 2006.

"Good luck 2 Peter Robinson," Mr Adams tweeted.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain, who was recently made a peer, hailed Mr Robinson's contribution to the peace process.

"If Ian Paisley was the unionist pilot of the peace process then Peter Robinson was the unionist navigator, an indispensable part of the project that has established self-government and a permanent settlement between bitter old enemies," said the former Labour minister.

"He will stand tall because of that and because of his leadership as First Minister."

DUP party chairman Lord Morrow paid tribute to Mr Robinson.

"Peter Robinson was a founding member of our party," he said. "He has devoted his life to the cause of the advancement of unionism in Northern Ireland.

"As deputy leader and director of elections he was the tactician behind all of the major advances made by the DUP over the course of the last 15 years.

"As party leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland he has led our party and our country through some of the most delicate and difficult phases of the political process.

"There were times when lesser men would have given up and simply walked away, but Peter endured and has worked hard for the people of Northern Ireland.

"His contribution to Ulster society has been immense. Northern Ireland is a better place today than it was when he assumed the office of First Minister."

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness - "Despite our political differences, I recognise fully the enormous personal contribution Peter has made"

Mr McGuinness said: "I have worked closely with Peter Robinson in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister since June 2008.

"During that time we have had a close and professional working relationship and, despite media perception it has always been courteous and amicable.

"We have faced many challenges together and over the last number of months have worked very closely together to bring about the Stormont House ‘A Fresh Start’ deal.

"Despite our political differences, I recognise fully the enormous personal contribution Peter has made, building on the work of his predecessor, Dr Paisley.

"I wish Peter and his family well for the future as he steps down as leader of the DUP.

"My colleagues and I will continue to work with Peter during this transition and his successor in the time ahead to complete the implementation of all commitments made in the agreement."

Ulster Unionist Party - "We wish Peter a long and healthy retirement"

“We wish Peter a long and healthy retirement. Meanwhile, he remains First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive at a time when we share the ambition of seeing Stormont delivering positive outcomes for all our people.

"We will continue to engage positively with that objective in mind.”

DUP Deputy leader Nigel Dodds "mere words cannot convey the enormity of thank you owed"

The North Belfast MP said, “Mere words cannot convey the enormity of the thank you owed to Peter by the DUP and by everyone who values progress in Northern Ireland.

"Peter has been a towering figure in the Democratic Unionist Party since its foundation. He has dedicated his life to the defence of the Union and to building a better life for our people. He can be justifiably proud of what he has achieved in helping secure those objectives.

"I have had the privilege of working closely with Peter as a colleague and a friend for many years. There is no doubt that Northern Ireland would not have made the progress it has without his vision, leadership and political skills.

"He has displayed remarkable courage and resilience, staying the course through some of our darkest times, when it was not easy to be involved in politics. He has made huge personal sacrifices in the service of others.

"As we look to the future and continue to build a better and more peaceful Northern Ireland we know that much of the foundation of that future has been laid by Peter Robinson.”

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson MP pays tribute to "mentor"

"Peter Robinson has been a principled leader of Unionism, the best political strategist of his generation, a lifetime of dedicated, self-sacrificial public service, the list could go on and much will be written about Peter’s unique and unrivalled contribution to life in Northern Ireland.

"As my mentor, as someone who I admired from afar and more latterly worked alongside, I want to acknowledge the caring, compassionate side of his life as an East Belfast representative who won a place in the hearts of our local community for almost four decades.

"Too young to remember the worst days of the troubles, I cannot begin to imagine the pressure public service has had on him personally nor indeed his family, yet Peter never failed to put others first. His foresight has, without question or contradiction, delivered a Northern Ireland that can move forward confidently, with a sense of pride and purpose; and an overarching resolve never to repeat again."

"He is without doubt a major loss to both our party and unionism but I trust he will be able to enjoy an easier pace of life while still assisting us in the days that lie ahead.”

Arlene Foster - Ulster is losing a great leader

“I am extremely sad as our Party leader and First Minister announces his decision to retire.

"In many ways no one deserves a long and happy retirement more than Peter but for those of us who work closely with him it is a wrench and he leaves a void that will be very difficult to fill.

"The DUP, unionism and Northern Ireland owe a huge debt of gratitude to Peter for his forty years of unstinting public service. He is without equal within Unionism for his strategic ability to chart a course through many difficult periods in our Province. His strategic vision, calm reflection and decisive decision making, will mark him out as something very special. His vision for our country over the years was shaped by his love for Northern Ireland and his determination to build a settled Northern Ireland within the Union. He has achieved that vision.

"As Northern Ireland’s longest serving First Minister Peter’s steady hand has guided us during both calm and challenging periods. Even during the recent political discussions his contribution ensured he was able to conclude the right deal for Northern Ireland.

"On a personal level Peter was instrumental in my decision to join the Democratic Unionist Party over twelve years ago and it has been my privilege to work alongside him in both a party and Ministerial capacity. I very much appreciated his support and encouragement to me.

"I know that while his role will change he will continue to help and support us as we work to implement what has recently been agreed. Unionism is stronger today as a result of the sacrificial labours of Peter Robinson and for that we are eternally grateful.

"Ulster is losing a great leader but his legacy will be with us for many years to come.”

Alliance leader David Ford: Time will tell what Robinson legacy will be

Alliance Leader David Ford has said “time will tell” what will be Peter Robinson’s legacy.

“Although we were not always on the same page, I tended to get on well with Mr Robinson, and applaud him for his role in helping the Assembly return in 2007 and continuing power-sharing with Sinn Fein,” said Mr Ford.

“However, despite this week’s deal being dubbed his legacy, there remains a question over whether we actually have stability in our institutions. There were no resolutions for victims, only promises on paramilitarism, parades and flags, and massive questions over the viability of the economic package included.

“Mr Robinson has also mentioned taking East Belfast back but left out the circumstances of it being due to a five-party pact which barely beat Naomi Long. Peter Robinson will not decide his own legacy but rather be judged on the delivery of what he has helped establish.

“The DUP now has several questions to answer about the state of their partnership with Sinn Fein going forward. That success of that and how it delivers for the people of Northern Ireland will be the legacy of Peter Robinson, nothing else.”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA wishes Mr Robinson "all the best and the best of health"

Mr Eastwood said: "Peter Robinson and I haven’t been decades long political adversaries but over the course of the last number of years we often found ourselves on polar opposite sides of issues.

"His early career was forged as a right leaning, hardline unionist so it’s unsurprising that we don’t have much political common ground. But despite our disagreements, on a human level it’s clear to see that he has had a very difficult time personally and with his health.

“Politics here is often dominated by cults of personality and we’re all guilty of forgetting that beneath that, there are people with families and their own lives.

"I want to wish the First Minister all the best in the future and the best of health so that he can enjoy his retirement.”


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