First Minister Peter Robinson says he was delighted to have his wife Iris at his side in public again after she ended an 18-month exile by attending a banquet in honour of the Queen at Dublin Castle.
It is understood that Mrs Robinson will make more public appearances in the months ahead.
But there will be no formal role for her as ‘first lady’ to the First Minister, and she will not be giving any television or newspaper interviews in the near future.
The DUP leader was left fighting for his political life in 2009 after his wife’s admission of an affair with 19-year-old Kirk McCambley became public following an earlier suicide attempt.
Mr Robinson, critical of some media comments on her return to the spotlight, said: “She has received months of treatment thereafter.
“And while she can look a million dollars when she's out, when those kind of comments are made, it has an effect.”
He added: “Forgive me for protecting my wife, but she has had a very difficult time, she has come through it with great courage.
“I was delighted that she was at my side last night.
“I don't intend to impose on her on every occasion to do so, but when she feels it is right and proper, and she is fit to do it, I'll be delighted to have her there.”
Senior DUP sources said the disgraced former politician plans to accompany her husband at several major functions and events.
A DUP insider said yesterday that most people in the party would be relieved to see the wife of the First Minister back in the public eye.
The immediate public reaction appeared to be broadly sympathetic towards the former MP, Assembly Member and councillor.
Only three weeks ago Mrs Robinson was said not to be well enough to join her husband at the Royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.
“The key factor was the travelling involved,” one source said. “She was just not fit to travel to the Royal wedding, even though as a staunch royalist she would have loved to have been there.
“It involved being in airports, travelling on a plane, huge crowds, and it was decided it would be too much for her.
“All of this will be gauged on what she will be able to cope with.
“The family will be taking medical advice and making the decisions. Iris is not a public person anymore. She is a private individual, but she is the First Minister’s wife and in that capacity will be accompanying him from time to time at big events.”