Peter Robinson (politician)

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The Right Honourable
Peter Robinson
MLA
Peter Robinson at Titanic Belfast (Cropped).jpg
First Minister of Northern Ireland
Incumbent
Assumed office
5 June 2008
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Martin McGuinness
Preceded by Ian Paisley
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
Incumbent
Assumed office
31 May 2008
Deputy Nigel Dodds
Preceded by Ian Paisley
Minister of Finance and Personnel
In office
8 May 2007 – 5 June 2008
First Minister Ian Paisley
Preceded by Sean Farren
Succeeded by Nigel Dodds
Minister for Regional Development
In office
24 October 2001 – 11 October 2002
First Minister Reg Empey
David Trimble
Preceded by Gregory Campbell
Succeeded by Conor Murphy
In office
29 November 1999 – 27 July 2000
First Minister David Trimble
Preceded by Office Created
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Belfast East
Incumbent
Assumed office
25 June 1998
Preceded by Constituency Created
Member of Parliament
for Belfast East
In office
3 May 1979 – 6 May 2010
Preceded by William Craig
Succeeded by Naomi Long
Personal details
Born Peter David Robinson
(1948-12-29) 29 December 1948 (age 65)
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Nationality British
Political party Democratic Unionist Party
Spouse(s) Iris Collins (1970–present)
Children Jonathan
Gareth
Rebekah
Residence Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Alma mater Castlereagh College
Occupation Politician
Profession Estate agent
Religion Elim Pentecostal
Website Official website

Peter David Robinson (born 29 December 1948) is a British politician who has been the First Minister of Northern Ireland and Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party since 2008. He has been actively involved in Northern Irish politics since 1970 when he became a founding member of the DUP along with Ian Paisley.

Robinson served as Paisley’s Parliamentary Assistant at Westminster prior to assuming the role of the General Secretary of the DUP in 1975, a position which he held until 1979 and which afforded him the opportunity to exert unprecedented influence within the fledgling unionist party. In 1977, Robinson was elected as a councillor for the Castlereagh Borough Council in Dundonald, and in 1979, he became the youngest-serving Member of Parliament (MP) when he was narrowly elected for Belfast East. He held this seat until his defeat by Naomi Long in 2010, making him the longest-serving MP for any constituency in Belfast since the 1800 Act of Union.

In 1980, Robinson was elected as the Deputy Leader of the DUP. Following the re-establishment of devolved government in Northern Ireland as a result of the Good Friday Agreement, Robinson was elected in 1998 as the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Belfast East. Robinson subsequently served as Minister for Regional Development and Minister for Finance and Personnel in the Northern Ireland Executive. Robinson was elected unopposed to succeed Ian Paisley as the Leader of the DUP on 15 April 2008, and was subsequently confirmed as First Minister of Northern Ireland on 5 June 2008.12

In January 2010, following a scandal involving his wife Iris and raising allegations regarding their financial affairs, Robinson temporarily handed over his duties as First Minister to Arlene Foster under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 2006.3 Following a police investigation, which recommended that Robinson should not be prosecuted following allegations made by the BBC in relation to the scandal, he resumed his duties as First Minister in time to complete the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Stormont Executive on 5 February 2010.45

Background

Peter David Robinson was born on 29 December 1948 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the son of Sheila and David McCrea Robinson.

Peter Robinson was educated at Annadale Grammar School, now Wellington College Belfast in Belfast, and studied English and Mathematics at Castlereagh College, now known part of the Belfast Metropolitan College.

Although Robinson’s family had no background in unionist politics, Robinson developed an interest in Northern Irish politics as a teenager, resulting in the publication of various political pamphlets, including ‘The North Answers Back’, which drew the young aspiring politician to the attention of Ian Paisley. Robinson initially gained employment as an estate agent for Alex Murdoch & Deane in Belfast but decided to accept a decrease in salary to become the DUP’s first general secretary in 1975.

Political career

Member of the DUP

Robinson was General Secretary of the DUP between 1975 and 1979. He first stood in the election to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention on 1 May 1975 in Belfast, East. Although he started in fifth place, he failed to get elected being overtaken by his running mate Eileen Paisley.6

Robinson was elected as a councillor for Castlereagh Borough Council for the Castlereagh C area in the local government elections on 18 May 1977.7 He resigned from the council on 2 July 2007.8

Member of Parliament and Executive Minister

Robinson was selected as DUP candidate for Belfast East during the 1979 general election, a seat which previously had a big Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) majority.6 He won the seat with a 19.9%6 swing to the DUP and a majority of 64,6 with Alliance Party leader Oliver Napier 9286 votes behind, unseating the MP former Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party leader and UUP candidate William Craig on 3 May 1979.

He was re-elected to the House of Commons in 1983, 1986 (along with UUP and DUP MPs he resigned his seat in protest at the Anglo Irish Agreement on 17 December 1985 and was re-elected in the by-election the next year), 1987, 1992, 2001 and 2005. In the 2010 UK general election he lost Belfast East to Naomi Long of the Alliance party.9

Robinson did not sit on any committees in the United Kingdom Parliament, although he served on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee from 1997 to 13 July 2005.10

In the general election on 7 June 2001, Robinson’s wife, Iris, joined him in Parliament as MP for Strangford. The Robinsons were the first husband and wife ever to represent Northern Ireland in Parliament.

Robinson was the longest-serving Member of Parliament for any Belfast constituency since the Act of Union in 1800.

Leadership of the Democratic Unionist Party

Robinson's electoral success was marked when he was elected Deputy Leader of the DUP in 1980. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast East on 20 October 1982 where he served as Chairman of the Environment Committee until it was dissolved in 1986.6

In 1986 he was involved, alongside other DUP leaders, in the launch of Ulster Resistance at the Ulster Hall, an event chaired by the DUP. Robinson was later photographed wearing the loyalist paramilitary regalia of beret and military fatigues at an Ulster Resistance rally.11 Ulster Resistance collaborated with the loyalist paramilitary groups the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association in procuring weapons which were used by these organisations in robberies and sectarian murders. The DUP later claimed that they had severed links with Ulster Resistance in 1987

Robinson resigned briefly as DUP Deputy Leader in 1987 when the Task Force Report, written jointly with Ulster Unionists, Harold McCusker MP and Frank Millar and calling for a strategic unionist rethink in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was rejected by their respective leaders, Ian Paisley and James Molyneaux.

He was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum on 30 May 1996 and served in it until it completed its work in 1998.12 On 25 June 1998, he was elected MLA for Belfast East in the Northern Ireland Assembly election.13 He was subsequently re-elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2003 and again in 2007.

Robinson was Minister for Regional Development, which has overall responsibility for the Department for Regional Development (DRD), between 29 November 1999 to 27 July 2000 and 24 October 2001 to 11 October 2002. He was responsible for the introduction of free fares on public transport for the elderly and helped formulate the 25 year Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland and devised the 10 year Regional Transport Strategy.

Robinson was Minister of Finance and Personnel from 8 May 2007 to June 2008.14

On 4 March 2008, Ian Paisley announced that he would step down as Leader of the DUP and First Minister in May 2008.15 On 14 April 2008, Robinson was nominated unanimously by the DUP MLAs as leader designate with Nigel Dodds as deputy leader designate of the DUP and on 17 April 2008 they were both ratified by the DUP's 120-member executive committee.1617 He formally became leader on 31 May 2008.

First Minister of Northern Ireland

Robinson with George W. Bush (centre) and Martin McGuinness (left).
Robinson meets with United States President Barack Obama at the White House on St. Patrick's Day 2009.

As Leader of the DUP, Robinson was ratified by the Northern Ireland Assembly as First Minister with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister on 5 June 2008.18

On 11 January 2010 Robinson announced that he was stepping down from the position of First Minister for a period of six weeks to clear his name over his financial dealings in the midst of the Iris Robinson scandal. Arlene Foster was designated to discharge the duties of First Minister until his return.19 Robinson faced claims that he knew his wife had obtained £50,000 from two developers for her teenage lover but did not tell the proper authorities, leading to him asking the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly to carry out an inquiry into his conduct. After an OFMdFM lawyer advised Robinson that he had committed no wrongdoing, "he had no case to answer," he returned to active duty as First Minister despite the ongoing investigations by the police and the Assembly Commissioner Standards and Privileges. While the police investigation into the conduct of the Peter and Iris Robinson concluded in a recommendation not to prosecute in 2011, the Standards and Privileges enquiry has still not been completed three years after it was ordered by the Assembly, and remains ongoing as Iris Robinson is adjudged medically unfit to respond to the enquiry.20

On 5 February 2010, Robinson oversaw the devolution of policing and justice powers from the British Parliament to the Northern Ireland Assembly, negotiating a power-sharing deal with Sinn Féin.21 This process ensured that devolution in Northern Ireland was able to be fully completed.21

At the 2011 Assembly election, both the DUP and Sinn Féin increased their number of seats. Robinson and Martin McGuinness were sworn in for a second term as First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively shortly afterwards.

In 2012, Robinson took part in the historic visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Northern Ireland, where she shook hands with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness. Robinson supported the event, saying, "We recognise that this will be a difficult ask for Her Majesty The Queen and a significant step for republicans. The process has required us all to reach out and take decisions outside our comfort zone. It is the right decision and a step forward for Northern Ireland."22

Peter Robinson speaking at Titanic Belfast, 2012

Political and personal controversies

At the NI Investment Conference 2013 in Belfast, with Martin McGuinness, David Cameron and Theresa Villiers

Invasion of Clontibret

On 7 August 1986, in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Robinson led a group of 500 loyalists into the village of Clontibret in County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. The loyalists attacked the unmanned Garda station in the village and daubbed loyalist slogans on the walls. They then held a quasi-military parade along the main street and attacked two Gardaí. More Gardaí arrived shortly after and fired shots in the air, scattering the loyalist crowd. Robinson was arrested and held at Monaghan Garda station. He pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly and was fined IR£17500 in a Drogheda court to escape a prison sentence. As a result, Robinson briefly resigned from the DUP deputy leadership.23 There was also violence both before and after a court appearance in Dundalk, including Ian Paisley being attacked with stones and petrol bombs after Jim Wells and other Robinson supporters waved flags and sang Loyalist songs.24 At his trial the judge described him as "a senior extremist politician".2526

Ulster Resistance

In November 1986, he spoke at the Ulster Hall demonstration which launched Ulster Resistance, an organisation which subsequently collaborated with the Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force to import arms from South Africa, resulting in Robinson leaving the organisation.2627 Robinson was photographed wearing the loyalist paramilitary military uniform at an Ulster Resistance demonstration.

At a rally in Enniskillen, Peter Robinson announced; "'Thousands have already joined the movement and the task of shaping them into an effective force is continuing. The Resistance has indicated that drilling and training has already started. The officers of the nine divisions have taken up their duties'.28

Views on homosexuality

On 30 October 2008 in his first extensive interview as First Minister interview for Hearts and Minds for BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson publicly stated that homosexuality was against Christian theology.

Robinson's wife, Iris, had said that homosexuality was an abomination and that gay people could be turned around "with help". These comments came the same week that a gay man was badly beaten in a purported homophobic attack. A police investigation was brought on, claiming "her comments breached hate crime laws but no charges were brought."29 Peter Robinson supported his wife's statements, saying: “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was The Almighty. This is the Scriptures. It is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won’t allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views.” 30

Planning application

On 28 May 2009 the Planning Service of Northern Ireland granted Robinson planning permission for six houses to be built in his rear garden on the Gransha Road31 in the Dundonald area of east Belfast.32

On 30 March 2010, the BBC reported that Robinson had purchased a piece of land from a developer for £5, enabling him to sell part of his back garden for nearly £460,000.33 Robinson later claimed that the BBC were leading a smear campaign against him.34

BBC Spotlight investigation

On 8 January 2010 the BBC Northern Ireland programme Spotlight35 reported on how his wife, Iris, had obtained £50,000 for Kirk McCambley, 19 at the time, while she was sexually involved with him.36 On the day before the Spotlight programme, Peter Robinson had made an emotional statement to the Press Association, BBC, UTV and RTÉ in regard to the relationship and mentioned that there were no financial wrongdoings.37 The programme maintained that when Robinson found out about the financial aspects of his wife's relationship he insisted that the money she had lobbied two property developers for and which she subsequently lent and gave to her lover be returned in full. It claimed that he did not tell the proper authorities what he knew about the transactions between the four, despite being obliged by the Northern Ireland Executive ministerial code of conduct to act in the public interest at all times. Later that day Robinson's solicitors said he was thoroughly satisfied that he had at all times acted properly and fulfilled all requirements, and would robustly challenge any allegation to the contrary.36 On the following day, Robinson maintained that he had "learned from Spotlight for the first time some alleged aspects of my wife's affair and her financial arrangements" and that he would be "resolutely defending attacks on my character and contesting any allegations of wrongdoing".38

On 11 January 2010 Robinson announced that he was stepping down from the position of First Minister for a period of six weeks. Arlene Foster was nominated as his replacement for this period.19 Robinson lost his seat in Westminster at the 2010 General Election.

FAIR censorship allegations

According to a report on their website in 2007 Peter Robinson wrote to Willie Frazer, director of the Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) non-governmental organisation, telling him he "might find it much easier to get co-operation with political representatives if you were genuinely involved in Victim Support rather than opposition politics".39 Robinson's principal private secretary was found to have been involved, in February 2010, in trying to have criticism of the DUP's working relationship with Sinn Féin censored from FAIR's website. Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey asked whether this amounted to party political use of the office.40 Seven months later FAIR's funding by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) was stopped following allegations of financial irregularities in the group. The Office of First and Deputy First Minister decided that the conclusions of investigations into FAIR's finances will not be made public, although the group, with support from the Ulster Unionists, began legal action to have the findings of the SEUPB investigation made public.41

Personal life

Robinson married Iris Collins on 26 July 1970; they have three children, Jonathan, Gareth and Rebekah. His wife has joined him as a councillor, a MLA and a MP. Their son, Gareth Robinson was also member of Castlereagh (borough). They were the first husband and wife ever to represent Northern Ireland constituencies in Parliament. His daughter, Rebekah, served as his private secretary for his Advice Centre in the East Belfast constituency. Hazel Kerr serves as the office's main secretary. He is a supporter of Rangers42 and Tottenham Hotspur and has expressed admiration for Spurs player Gareth Bale. Robinson is also a fan of his local Belfast football team Glentoran.43

He owns property in Belfast and a London apartment. In 2014 he and his wife sold their luxury villa in Orlando, Florida.44

He is author of a number of popular books and pamphlets on local politics and history including: The Union Under Fire (1995); Sinn Féin – A Case for Proscription (1993); Hands off the UDR (1990); Their Cry was no Surrender (1986); Ulster in Peril (1984); Carson – Man of Action (1984); It’s Londonderry (1984); A War to be Won (1983); Self-Inflicted (1981); Ulster the Facts (1981); Savagery and Suffering (1975); Capital Punishment for Capital Crime (1974); Give Me Liberty (no date); Ulster—the Prey (no date).45

Satire

Robinson's character on the BBC's Folks on the Hill television programme is portrayed as aggressive and constantly trying to get away from the Ian Paisley-Martin McGuinness so-called "Chuckle Brothers" image when he works with Martin McGuinness.46 However it does not appear that he will escape a shared nickname as "Brothers Grimm" is catching on.47

References and notes

  1. ^ "Robinson to follow Paisley path". BBC News. 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ "Robinson is new NI First Minister". BBC News. 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  3. ^ "Peter Robinson steps aside as NI First Minister". BBC News. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  4. ^ "DUP disclose part of Peter Robinson legal advice". BBC News. 2010-02-18. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  5. ^ "Northern Ireland Parties agree Power-Sharing Deal". BBC News. 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Dr. Nicholas Whyte. "ARK". ARK. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  7. ^ "ARK". ARK. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  8. ^ "Robinson resigns from Castlereagh", BBC News, 2 July 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  9. ^ "Naomi Long beats Peter Robinson to win in East Belfast"
  10. ^ "UK Parliament". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15. dead link
  11. ^ Devenport, Mark (14 April 2008). "Cooler style of patient Robinson". BBC News. 
  12. ^ Dr Nicholas Whyte. "ARK". ARK. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  13. ^ Dr Nicholas Whyte. "ARK". ARK. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  14. ^ "Northern Ireland Executive". Northernireland.gov.uk. 2009-09-29. Archived from the original on 22 August 2007. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  15. ^ "Paisley to quit as First Minister". BBC News. 2008-03-04. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  16. ^ "Robinson to follow Paisley path". BBC News. 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  17. ^ "Robinson confirmed as DUP leader". BBC News. 2008-04-17. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  18. ^ "Robinson is new NI first minister", BBC News, 5 June 2008. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  19. ^ a b "Robinson takes six-week break from First Minster role". BBC News. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  20. ^ Belfast Telegraph report, 21. September 2012
  21. ^ a b "NI parties agree deal on policing". BBC News. 5 February 2010. 
  22. ^ "BBC News - Robinson says Sinn Féin right to meet Queen". BBC news. BBC News. 
  23. ^ "CAIN". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  24. ^ Dr Martin Melaugh. "CAIN". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  25. ^ Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968–99 by Paul Bew, page 202
  26. ^ a b Profile: Peter Robinson: Poised to take reins from the Big Mandead link
  27. ^ Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA by Ian S. Wood (ISBN 0-7486-2427-9), page 133
  28. ^ "Religion and Violence: The Case of Paisley and Ulster Evangelicals". Irish-association.org. 1986-06-23. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  29. ^ "Iris Robinson 'hypocrite' - gay campaigner Tatchell". BBC. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  30. ^ "First Minister Peter Robinson backs wife's view that gays are an 'abomination'". Belfasttelegraph.co.uk. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  31. ^ "Google maps UK". Maps.google.co.uk. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  32. ^ "Robinson 'garden grab' is passed". BBC News. 2009-05-28. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  33. ^ "Robinson bought 'key land' for £5". BBC News. 2010-03-30. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  34. ^ "Robinson denies land wrongdoing". BBC News. 2010-04-02. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  35. ^ Edwards, Richard (2010-01-07). "Iris Robinson's lover named as Kirk McCambley". London: Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  36. ^ a b "Iris Robinson business deal broke law". BBC News. 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  37. ^ "Peter Robinson statement in full". BBC News. 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  38. ^ Statement by Peter Robinson, 8 January 2010
  39. ^ "Letter to Peter Robinson & His Response!". Victims.org.uk. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  40. ^ Published on Wednesday 6 July 2011 08:30 (6 July 2011). "OFMDFM challenged in victims’ website row". Newsletter.co.uk. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  41. ^ Published on Wednesday 8 February 2012 08:28 (8 February 2012). "Empey calls for public release of FAIR report". Newsletter.co.uk. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  42. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf-cwtuDgYs
  43. ^ "I'd love to be Gareth Bale says First Minister Peter Robinson" Belfast Telegraph 10 May 2012
  44. ^ [1]
  45. ^ www.parliamentaryyearbook2007.co.uk/mp-member/robinson-peter-.html
  46. ^ British Broadcasting Corporation. "Folks on the Hill". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  47. ^ Belfast Telegraphdead link

See also

External links

Offices held

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Craig
Member of Parliament for Belfast East
19792010
Succeeded by
Naomi Long
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Constituency Created
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Belfast East
1998–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Office Created
General Secretary of the Democratic Unionist Party
1975–1979
Succeeded by
William Beattie
Preceded by
William Beattie
Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
1980–2008
Succeeded by
Nigel Dodds
Preceded by
Ian Paisley
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
2008–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Office Created
Minister for Regional Development
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Gregory Campbell
Preceded by
Gregory Campbell
Minister for Regional Development
2001–2002
Succeeded by
Conor Murphy
Preceded by
Sean Farren
Minister of Finance and Personnel
2007–2008
Succeeded by
Nigel Dodds
Preceded by
Ian Paisley
First Minister of Northern Ireland
2008–present
Incumbent







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