Robinson praised after DUP victory
Published 07/05/2011 | 03:02
The Democratic Unionist Party's Northern Ireland Assembly victory has been hailed as its greatest ever political triumph.
Peter Robinson will return to Stormont as First Minister and the party could take 38 seats after a campaign which senior DUP members said was a testimony to the vision of their once beleaguered leader.
Sinn Fein is set to easily hold its position as the top voice in nationalism but as counts continued into a second night the party had yet to seal potential gains, while the smaller Ulster Unionists and SDLP were in a dogfight for final seats.
But it is already clear that the DUP and its leader have emerged stronger than ever a year after Mr Robinson's career was written off following the scandal that engulfed his wife Iris.
Arlene Foster, who temporarily stepped into Mr Robinson's role as First Minister at the height of the crisis, said of the election: "I thought it was a tremendous performance and a real validation of Peter's leadership.
"People had written us all off in January last year, but he has come back stronger than ever.
"This has been a fabulous period for the party. People thought we had reached the high water mark in 2007 (with 36 seats), but look where we are now."
Mr Robinson's career was rocked last year by the revelations that his wife and former MP Iris Robinson had an affair with a teenager and had secured loans from developers to help her lover set up a business.
The DUP leader later lost his East Belfast Westminster seat amid the fallout, but his remarkable political revival was underlined by a poll-topping performance in the same constituency this time round.
All 108 seats have been filled. The final party tallies are: DUP 38; Sinn Fein 29; UUP 16; SDLP 14; Alliance 8; TUV 1; Green 1 and Ind 1.