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Leader is a broken man

I've been a journalist reporting the North's affairs longer than their marriage, but this wasn't the Peter Robinson I knew.

Here he was sitting on a brown leather sofa in the cluttered study of his home in his East Belfast constituency, a broken man: pale-faced, gaunt, emotionally drained and at times barely able to speak. Devastated. Shattered. Desolate.

Not the cold, detached, hardened, clinical politician who would, when the mood suited, fire you a look so powerful, it could freeze you on the spot.

Gone was the jacket and tie. Casually dressed in striped shirt, brown pullover, dark slacks and loafers, these were the garments of a man burdened by troubles far removed from those of office.


It was painful to watch as he read from a prepared statement. At times, he struggled to get the words out. The eyes would occasionally well up, and at one stage he came as close as ever he came to weeping in public.

This was when he paused, took another breath and continued: "It is heartbreaking that all the good work she has done, for so many, over the decades will be overshadowed by what she has outlined today."

Fifteen minutes, maybe 16, and it was all over. He got to his feet and as he made his way to the door, seemed to forget he still had the TV microphone pinned to his chest. "Oops," he said.

Then he stopped, turned sideways, and shook each of us by the hand.