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Iris got pals to bankroll lover's deals

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson is due back at his desk at Stormont today after his wife's affair became public knowledge.

Iris Robinson revealed she tried to kill herself after confessing to her husband that she had an affair.

And she also admitted she encouraged friends to provide financial backing to assist her lover in a business venture.

The relationship, 18 months ago, was a brief one but in a dramatic statement she revealed the devastating impact it had on the family and how she attempted to take her own life last March.

Mrs Robinson (60) said: "Everyone is paying a heavy price for my actions... I am so, so sorry."

The man has not been identified, and even though Mr Robinson considered walking away because of his sense of betrayal, the First Minister insisted last night he was determined to save his marriage.

He also said he would be staying on as leader of the DUP going into this year's general election.

At his home on the outskirts of east Belfast, choking with emotion and with his eyes welling up, Mr Robinson said: "That is the road I am on. It is a road without guarantees, but not without hope."

Nine days ago mother-of-three Mrs Robinson, MP for Strangford and a member of the Assembly, declared she was quitting politics because of a battle with depression.


But since then there has been intense behind-the-scenes speculation about the state of their 40-year marriage.

Mr Robinson suddenly called a special press briefing yesterday afternoon at his house in Dundonald where officials issued a personal statement by his wife -- before he went on to speak to four journalists to confirm the couple's private turmoil.

The marriage was considered by all sides to be rock solid, with Mr Robinson frequently rallying to his wife's defence when her outspoken criticism of homosexuality saw many label her a political liability.

In a statement, Mrs Robinson spoke about how severe bouts of depression had altered her mood and personality.

She said: "I fought with those I loved most, my children and friends; saw plots where none existed and conducted myself in a manner which was self-destructive and out of character.

"Over a year and a half ago, I was involved in a relationship.

"It began completely innocently when I gave support to someone following a family death. I encouraged friends to assist him by providing financial support for a business venture.

"Regrettably, the relationship later developed into a brief affair. It had no emotional or lasting meaning, but my actions have devastated my life, and the lives of those around me."