McGuinness hails Robinson’s leadership and friendship

Martin McGuinness shared power with Peter Robinson for eight years
Martin McGuinness shared power with Peter Robinson for eight years

MLAs from across the political divide lined up to pay tribute to ex-first minister Peter Robinson as he stood down from the post.

Among the first to her feet in the Stormont Assembly chamber was Arlene Foster who hailed him as the “most astute” politician in a generation.

“You were never better than in a crisis,” Mrs Foster said. “You prospered from difficult events, revelled in adversity and thrived in the face of impossible odds.”

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who shared power with Mr Robinson for almost eight years, also recognised his “leadership”.

He said: “I pay tribute to the leadership that Peter Robinson showed.

“We faced many challenges and many difficulties but I think we came through in the end.

“I had a friendship with Ian Paisley until the day he died and I have no doubt I have a friendship with Peter which will exist until the day we both die.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who was appointed late last year, described Mr Robinson as a “formidable political character” whose efforts helped cement the devolved institutions at Stormont.

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt joked that the three minutes of allocated speaking time would not do justice to the number of disputes between his party and the DUP.

However, he added: “I wish Mr Robinson and his family a healthy and prosperous future.”

David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party, said the former first minister had a long and significant career spanning some of the biggest events in the history of the Province.

“He has played a significant part in ensuring a better future for all of us,” Mr Ford said.

Although he could not endorse Mr Robinson’s legacy, Jim Allister, of the Traditional Unionist Voice, an arch-critic of the devolved Assembly, wished him well in his retirement.

He said: “In the early days our paths and policies coincided significantly but in the latter years they have diverged emphatically.

“But I think that the retiring first minister and I would probably form a different perspective; each of the view that each of us took the wrong road and in holding that view of each other that is something about which we still agree.

“No one would expect me to endorse the legacy or embrace the legacy of the retiring first minister.”