The emotional Peter Robinson, who came close to tears as he revealed the shocking details of his wife's affair and attempted suicide, showed a different -—and for the first time very human side — to the hard-as-nails political leader.
The initial reaction was one of public sympathy for the betrayed husband, reduced to laying bare his heartache about wife Iris's affair with Kirk McCambley.
In the lengthy and exclusive interview in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph with deputy editor Gail Walker, we saw a softer side to the previously emotionally-reserved First Minister.
“There are days,’’ he said, “I just want to go to bed, curl up in the foetal position and not come out again.’’
It is a side a side to him which political friends and opponents reveal they have only glimpsed in the past.
So what is the real First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson really like?
People who know him publicly and privately offer an insight into the man they know.
Ulster Unionist Councillor and former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Jim Rodgers
“I've had a lot of dealings with Peter over the years and I have the highest regard for him. He is the most meticulous person, a deep thinker, highly intelligent and a very good politician.
“I respect him and always felt I could do business with him.
“He has been a tremendous support to Glentoran Football Club of which I am a director and he is also a big fan.
“Peter isn't really a person who can relax so it was always nice to see him at the big games, dressed down in club colours when you saw a very different side to him from the smart suited politician. He is so engrossed in politics that he doesn't really have the time to enjoy himself and forget about the political arena.
“I'm a great believer in giving credit where credit is due and I don't believe in getting involved in petty gossip.
“My heart goes out to him and my thoughts and prayers on this awful tragedy. After the Spotlight programme he looked like a broken man and I have never ever seen Peter Robinson like that.”
Former Ulster Unionist MP Lord Ken Maginnis
“To be asked for one's ‘candid view' on Peter Robinson is, for me, like being asked to do a bungee jump — one doesn't really want to, but one can't be seen to duck the challenge. So let me choose the word that best encapsulates the man and it has to be ‘arrogant'.
“Not that he hadn't talent — well one anyway, his organising ability. In another life Peter would have made beautiful egg-cases — and then filled them with gravel.
“How often was that organising ability misused especially once the authority of Ian was ‘out of the way' — like the ‘Clontibret escapade' that he organised. I look back and wonder — why?
“What was it all about — to actually engineer ones own arrest by the ‘enemy' so as one could pay them a mighty bounty didn't really prove a lot to most folk.
“But it was that same arrogance that led him to be manipulated so completely at St Andrews and subsequently — to assume that he could organise a solution without even knowing where the political stepping-stones were or beginning to understand the |potential consequences.
“Selfish and self-satisfied, Peter has had what one would call ‘I trouble' — his life has been all about I, I and I.
“Myself before party, my party before country!! How sad — and to think he now has to meet the same people on the way down that he stepped on, on the way up.”
Senior Alliance Councillor, Alderman Geraldine Rice
“I've known Peter for over 20 years and as fellow councillors we have fought the bit out.
“When I first met him I thought he was a very cold person but over the years as I got to know him better, I realised he is actually very pleasant.
“He and I came head to head on a political level on many occasions and have had some real arguments in Chamber.
“I didn't like his politics and he didn't like mine.
“But, while we clashed in Chamber, we never carried it outside. There was never any animosity between us. I remember a few years ago when I was very ill, he was the first person to ring my husband to ask how I was.
“At the time, because I had missed three consecutive council meetings, I was at risk of being disqualified and it was Peter who asked for a special dispensation for me to retain my seat when I was fit again.