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Peter Robinson is better leader since the trauma with Iris, says Peter Hain

By Noel McAdam

Peter Robinson has become a better First Minister following the scandal over his wife’s affair, former Secretary of State Peter Hain has claimed.

And he argued the DUP leader has emerged from the trauma as a “stronger man”.

Mr Hain paid tribute to Mr Robinson’s “exceptional character and personal courage” in coming through his family trauma.

The political future of the former East Belfast MP was called into question — and he temporarily stood down as First Minister — after details emerged of an affair between his MP wife Iris and 19-year-old businessman Kirk Mc Cambley.

Mr Robinson also disclosed Iris had attempted suicide and, following the revelations, she stood down as Strangford MP, Assembly Member and Castlereagh councillor.

In a BBC interview to promote his recently-published memoirs, Mr Hain said the public had “warmed” more to Mr Robinson since the crisis.

He told the Stephen Nolan show: “I think Peter Robinson has come through this terrible crisis in his family, which is now behind them, and done so a stronger man. And very few people would have predicted that.

“I think he’s actually in some ways, from my observations of him, he’s emerged as a better First Minister.”

Mr Hain said Mr Robinson did not often smile in public and had a sense of “dourness” about him, despite being “really charming” in private. “I think the public have actually got to warm to Peter Robinson much more since the terrible trauma that happened to him and Iris,” he added.

Speaking about the autobiography Outside In, Mr Hain also said Northern Ireland has a “very artificial economy” that is “far too dependent on an historic public sector subsidy”.

In his book Mr Hain said despite an “abrasive public image and reputation as a hardliner in previous years” Mr Robinson was the brains behind the DUP and an extremely astute tactician with a tight grip on the party machine.

But he also said in the run-up to the St Andrews negotiations which led to the restoration of devolution he began to have private meetings with Ian Paisley jnr — against the advice of Mr Robinson.

Mr Hain also reiterated in the interview that his headline-grabbing, unpopular policies such as water charges and ending academic selection, helped act as leverage to force the DUP and Sinn Fein into sharing power at Stormont.

Story so far

Iris Robinson’s affair with a teeenager shocked Northern Ireland. Both she and her husband Peter come from a conservative, evangelical Christian background. But she had already sparked controversy over her description of homosexuality as an “abomination” on a par with paedophilia. She quit Parliament, the Assembly and Castlereagh council. Mr Robinson quit temporarily his post of First Minister..

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