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Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson steps down: full statement

Peter Robinson has asked Arlene Foster to remain in post as Finance Minister
Peter Robinson has asked Arlene Foster to remain in post as Finance Minister

"As someone who invested many hours trying to bring devolution to Northern Ireland, and to maintain it, I have tried to create space to allow these critical unresolved matters to be dealt with in a structured manner.

"Local Ministers making local decisions is best for Northern Ireland.

"The failure of the SDLP and Sinn Fein to implement the Stormont House Agreement together with the assessment from the Chief Constable of the involvement of IRA members in murder, the continued existence of the IRA and the arrests that followed has pushed devolution to the brink.

"Yesterday I indicated that we would ask the Business Committee to adjourn Assembly proceedings to allow negotiations to take place.  That proposal did not find sufficient support.  The Government can still legislate to suspend the Assembly and allow space for the parties to negotiate.

"In light of the decision by republicans, nationalists and the UUP to continue with business as usual in the Assembly, I am therefore standing aside as First Minister and other DUP Ministers will resign with immediate effect with the exception of Arlene Foster. 

"I have asked Arlene to remain in post as Finance Minister and acting First Minister to ensure that nationalists and republicans are not able to take financial and other decisions that may be detrimental to Northern Ireland."

Response by Ulster Unionist Party Leader Mike Nesbitt

"Peter Robinson clearly cannot make a decision as to whether he wants be in or out of the Executive. On Wednesday he said the DUP Ministers would leave the Executive en masse, yet only 24 hours later his position has shifted to only some of his Ministers resigning. In fact he has not even resigned himself, opting to use the idiosyncrasy of standing aside. Few people will see this as anything but a smokescreen.

"This is incredibly weak leadership. Instead of the focus remaining firmly on Sinn Fein, people are now trying to determine exactly what this latest example of DUP manoeuvring actually means. 

"Given the financial shambles that the DUP and Sinn Fein have presided over, and which has continued at pace under Arlene Foster, it is obvious that she has only been appointed as presiding First Minister for no other reason than to allow the DUP to cling on to the reins of power.

"If Peter Robinson was so concerned about the actions of the remaining Sinn Fein Ministers he should have resigned. Under the Northern Ireland Act if either one of the joint First Ministers resign, the other automatically ceases to hold office.”

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