Sunday 21 January 2018

Founder member of DUP rose to the top

Michael McHugh

WITH a holiday home in Florida and a sprawling property in east Belfast, Peter Robinson (61) enjoys the rewards of a life lived in the political spotlight.

In 1971, he was one of the founder members of the DUP.

The death of a school friend, Harry Beggs, killed that year in an IRA bombing, spurred the young Mr Robinson to enter politics.

He won the East Belfast parliamentary seat in 1979, turning over an Ulster Unionist majority of 17,000. He became DUP deputy leader a year later and was the youngest MP in the UK when he entered Parliament aged 30.

Mr Robinson married Iris Collins in July 1970. They were the first husband and wife team to represent Northern Ireland constituencies in parliament.

They have three children, Gareth, Jonathan and Rebekah.


Mr Robinson was a member of the Northern Assembly in 1982 and went on to be minister for regional development and finance during a later sitting of the Assembly.

The low point was his arrest following the invasion of Clontibret, in the South, by 500 loyalists in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1986 which gave Dublin a role in Northern Ireland affairs. He later pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly.

Mr Robinson opposed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, focusing on the release of paramilitary prisoners. He took office as minister for regional development and his grasp of detail was well-respected, but he refused to take part in Stormont Executive meetings.

After the restoration of devolution in May 2007, he took the finance ministry and helped make revitalising the local economy the main theme of the new programme for government. In his first budget, he froze the Stormont regional rate.

His rise culminated in his appointment as leader of the party and First Minister in 2008 following Ian Paisley's retirement.

Outside politics, he keeps Koi fish, an ornamental variety of the common carp; while his football loyalties sway between Spurs and Chelsea.

Irish Independent

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