EXCLUSIVE : PARTY SOURCES SAY ROBBO’S READY TO QUIT STORMONT
NORTHERN Ireland’s premier politician Peter RRobinson, may be preparing to pull the plug on a four decade political career, the Sunday World has learned. And the race could soon be on to find a new dynamic leader to lift the mantle of Ulster unionism and wage the Democratic Unionist Party‘s battles at Storming and Westminister.
Speculation is rising within the DUP that the party leader may quit politics altogeather in favour of a new life on the other side of the Atlantic, where he and his wife Iris own a substantail home in Florida. Sources close to the Ian Paisley founded party, say the DUP leader appears to be ” going through the motions ” of holding down the prestigious post of First Minister. The cite Robinson’s recent lack-lustre performance at Westminister, when David Cameron sent him and Martin McGuinness packing with nothing to show for their efrorts to secure a new Corporation Tax for the North of Ireland, as the latest example of the First Minister’s ” mounting disillusionment with politics.” And the recent comments he made concerning an attack on the Irish News in which he called on people ” to stop buying the Irish News “. ” David Cameron swotted Robinson and McGuinness like flies,” said one Stormount source. ” This was supposed to kickstart the North of Ireland’s economy. In the end, they came away with nothing and clearly Robinson and McGuinness had no plan B.” And the source added : ” Peter Robinson is a man whose political career was predicted on his understanding of fiscal matters, but he was caught out badly when Cameron told him there would be no change in Corporation Tax in the North of Ireland until after the referendum on Scottish Independence. Robinson had no answer to that.”
Robinson – who became DUP leader and First Minister five years ago when the Rev. Ian Paisley stood down – managed to overcome heartache in his personal life, to get his political career back on track after it emerged his wife Iris had had an affair with 19-year-old cafe owner Kirk McCambley. In the wake of the ‘ Iris-gate ‘ crisis, Robinson stood down from front-line politics, while his wife was treated for depression in a private London clinic. He handed over the reigns of leadership to Fermanagh MLA Arlene Foster, who assumed the role of Acting First Minister. However, our sources maintain that if Robinson quits in the short to mid-term, then it is no longer a foregone conclusion that Foster – a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party – would emerge as frount runner for the leader’s job. ” Just because Arlene did such a good job when Peter was on gardening leave it doesen’t automatically mean that she is odds-on to be the next DUP leader. ” For many years, political pundits speculated that Nigel Dodds was the natural successor to Peter Robinson, but despite the rumours – even from within the party – that isn’t going to happen,” said our source.
And the source revealed for the first time that in his opinion, Peter Robinson’s preferred successor is Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who quit the UUP shortly before the party, led by David Trimble, signed the Belfast Agreement on Good Friday 1998. It is believed Robinson is impressed by Donaldson’s performance at Westminister, where he sits on various high-powered committees. ” Jeffrey has a great understanding of how Westminister works and although Peter believed Storming caters for good devolved and stable Government in the North of Ireland, he sincerely believed unionism is best served by a strong unionist presence at Westminster,” the source said. And he added : ” If Peter had his way, he would step down tommorrow and allow Jeffrey Donaldson to take over the reigns.” It is understood Peter Robinson’s ego was delt a damaging blow when following the Iris Robinson‘s toy boy sex scandel, voters in East Belfast dumped him as as Westminister MP in favour of the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long. His political star in East Belfast decended even more during the recent Union Flag crisis. While the Alliance Party endured a campaign of vilifcation, Robinson was roundly jeered when he turned up at a meeting on the Lower Newtonards Road to discuss the issue. Our source said it was the current DUP leader’s ambition that the party speak for all shades of unionist opinion.
With many thanks to : Hugh Jordan,Sunday World.
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