'Good luck to him and his clan' - Gerry Adams leads tributes to retiring Peter Robinson
Published 19/11/2015 | 13:49
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was among the first to wish Peter Robinson well in retirement after the Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader announced he would be stepping down.
He said: "Good luck to him and his clan."
Once implacable foes, the two were central to the landmark deal that saw a previously unthinkable coalition of Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists assume the reins of power at Stormont in 2006.
Mr Adams claimed Sinn Fein had known of the DUP leader's plans for some time.
Good luck 2 Peter Robinson.— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) November 19, 2015
"He had confided in Martin (McGuinness)," added Mr Adams. "We didn't know of course when he was going to do it.
"The conference, he had suggested was a bit of a catalyst for the talks and he wanted to leave on a good day."
Although Mr Adams rejected assertions of a frosty relationship between Sinn Fein and Mr Robinson, he stopped short of saying he would miss him.
"I said the same thing about Ian Paisley, once he made the decision he was always very warm towards me, quite funny, respectful and I have to say in terms of working with Peter Robinson that it has been the same."
Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain, who was recently made a peer, hailed Mr Robinson's contribution to the peace process.
"If Ian Paisley was the unionist pilot of the peace process then Peter Robinson was the unionist navigator, an indispensable part of the project that has established self-government and a permanent settlement between bitter old enemies," said the former Labour minister.
"He will stand tall because of that and because of his leadership as First Minister."
Dublin's Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Flanagan said he was very sad to learn of Mr Robinson's retirement.
"At the appropriate moment, there will be an opportunity to fully record our appreciation for the positive contribution he has made to politics and society in Northern Ireland over recent times," he said.
"From my own direct experience of working closely with Peter, I wish to acknowledge his leading role in bringing stability to the political institutions in Northern Ireland, which was most recently demonstrated in the 'Fresh Start' Agreement of which he was a key architect."
Ireland's main Opposition party Fianna Fail's leader Micheal Martin described Mr Robinson as a pragmatic and straightforward politician who was serious about moving Northern Ireland forward.
"In his role as deputy leader to Ian Paisley and then as the leader of his party and Northern Ireland's First Minister, there is no doubt that he made a significant contribution to the journey that the island of Ireland has been on," he added.
The newly-elected SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was politically opposed to Mr Robinson but wished him well.
"Peter Robinson and I haven't been decades-long political adversaries but over the course of the last number of years we often found ourselves on polar opposite sides of issues," he said.
"His early career was forged as a right leaning, hardline unionist so it's unsurprising that we don't have much political common ground.
"But despite our disagreements, on a human level it's clear to see that he has had a very difficult time personally and with his health.
"Politics here is often dominated by cults of personality and we're all guilty of forgetting that beneath that, there are people with families and their own lives.
"I want to wish the First Minister all the best in the future and the best of health so that he can enjoy his retirement."
DUP party chairman Lord Morrow also paid tribute to Mr Robinson.
"Peter Robinson was a founding member of our party," he said. "He has devoted his life to the cause of the advancement of unionism in Northern Ireland.
"As deputy leader and director of elections he was the tactician behind all of the major advances made by the DUP over the course of the last 15 years.
"As party leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland he has led our party and our country through some of the most delicate and difficult phases of the political process.
"There were times when lesser men would have given up and simply walked away, but Peter endured and has worked hard for the people of Northern Ireland.
"His contribution to Ulster society has been immense. Northern Ireland is a better place today than it was when he assumed the office of First Minister."