Belfast Telegraph

Robinson's vow to bolster the peace

Editor's Viewpoint

Predictions of Peter Robinson's political decline, or even demise, seem wide of the mark as he comes out fighting after a summer of self-imposed silence. His lengthy article for this newspaper today gives a clear signal that he intends to see out this Assembly term as First Minister and leader of the DUP and may even go on for other terms.

He dismisses suggestions that he was in thrall to the more hard-line elements within his party when he did his U-turn on the Maze peace and conflict centre, suggesting instead that he was just applying a sensible condition to the project. Does this mean it could be resurrected if some compromises are found?

In what he admits is his typically abrasive and confrontational manner, he seeks to reassert his authority as the leading politician in Northern Ireland and challenges his political opponents both within unionism and within nationalism/republicanism.

These are not the comments of a man wanting to see out his final political years quietly. He admits there are challenges facing the political process here, but, rightly, points out how far it has come in a relatively short period of time given the horrific backdrop of the Troubles. There are everyday political matters to be dealt with and agreed on – reform of local government and education, and modernising the NHS as well as getting powers to reduce corporation tax in the bid to win new investment.

It is difficult to argue with much of what Mr Robinson says. His pointed remarks, obviously directed at Sinn Fein, that they cannot hold out the hand of reconciliation while waging its primary campaign by other means will be shared by many, and not just DUP supporters. So too will his objection to republicans glorifying past terrorist crimes.

But, it should also be pointed out that our past summer of discontent owed some of its longevity to the lack of strong political leadership on the ground. Mr Robinson as First Minister was particularly silent for too long and must accept that was not the most politic way of acting for a man in his role.

However, as MLAs return to Stormont today and Mr Robinson woos investors in America alongside Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, there is an opportunity to make a real impact in the coming weeks and months. The Haass talks give everyone an opportunity to address legacies of the past such as parades, symbols and victims' issues.

These problems must be tackled in a mature manner with a desire to find lasting consensual solutions which then should be implemented.

Mr Robinson says he and his party are willing to work on finding answers rather than creating obstacles. That is all we ask of all the parties, a genuine desire to build peace across the community.

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