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I am not on the comeback trail, insists ex-DUP leader Robinson

Robinson laughs off Empey suggestion re-emergence might be a play for power

By David Young

Peter Robinson has ruled out a return to front line politics in the wake of his intervention on the border issue.

Some had floated the idea of a possible comeback from the former DUP leader following a series of recent high-profile statements.

Writing in this newspaper yesterday, Mr Robinson accused unionists who cautioned against talking about a border poll of engaging in "claptrap" and "crass folly".

Speaking on the BBC's Talkback programme yesterday, former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey said: "I think the latest intervention (from Mr Robinson) clearly demonstrates that - some might argue - that he is even on a comeback operation here."

Lord Empey referred to recent difficulties, including the failure of talks to resolve the Stormont impasse, which he said "might mean that the future is not too bright" for current DUP leader Arlene Foster.

He added: "And maybe he sees the sun coming out again for him and maybe he sees himself on a comeback. Who knows?"

But Mr Robinson moved quickly to scotch the speculation, telling the BBC programme: "You must be joking. Not the remotest notion of doing so."

Mr Robinson (69) announced his retirement in November 2015, and stepped down the following January.

He was succeeded as First Minister by Mrs Foster, a Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA and former Enterprise and Finance Minister.

Lord Empey told Talkback being a former leader could be a "difficult role".

"You have to have regard to the fact that someone else is in the driving seat, not you, and you have to adjust to that, and recent events in the last few months with Peter Robinson's interventions clearly indicate his hasn't managed to achieve that," he claimed.

"The one cardinal sin in my view is for former leaders to be critical publicly of their successors."

Earlier this year Mr Robinson was made an honorary professor in peace studies at Queen's University, Belfast. In his inaugural lecture he offered advice on how the political stalemate in Northern Ireland could be broken.

He also described talks held to try to restore devolution as a "train crash".

Yesterday Lord Empey referred to that speech, adding: "We saw in Queen's University earlier this summer when Peter made his border poll speech, Arlene was sitting in front of him and he referred to the train crash of the talks that she led in February, and it was fairly obvious who he was getting at."

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