‘Nonsense’ to suggest Robinson about to retire, says Arlene Foster

DUP leader Peter Robinson pictured at the Belfast City Council election count with DUP councillor Ruth Patterson. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
DUP leader Peter Robinson pictured at the Belfast City Council election count with DUP councillor Ruth Patterson. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

Senior DUP figures have moved to quash rumours that Peter Robinson could be in the final weeks as leader of the DUP.

The rumours, which have been circulating in recent weeks and were published in a Sunday tabloid newspaper at the weekend, claim that the First Minister is preparing to leave in the autumn with suggestions that he may be given a peerage.

On Sunday, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds dismissed the claims as “typical tabloid rubbish”. And today Arlene Foster, a second senior DUP figure who has been named as a possible successor to the DUP leader, also came out to support her leader.

In a statement issued through the DUP press office, Mrs Foster praised all unionists and the Orange Order for working together to secure a peaceful Twelfth of July.

The statement went on: “In particular, Mrs Foster praised the leadership of Peter Robinson and described weekend speculation about his position as nonsense.”

Mrs Foster was quoted as saying: “I commend Peter Robinson for the role he played and the time he invested in the weeks running up to the parade in Belfast.

“There is a long-term strategy in place and I know that Peter will be working with the Loyal Orders, other unionist leaders and community leaders to ensure we get a better way forward on parading.

“Those who were foolishly speculating about Peter’s position will be proved wrong in the longer-term. He has a job of work to do and is focused on delivering for his electorate.

“In the absence of violence at the Twelfth its a clear case of some media having to scramble some story together to fill their pages.”

Meanwhile, unionists are expected to meet Secretary of State Theresa Villiers next week to press their case for an inquiry into the north Belfast parading situation.

Veteran Orangeman and MLA David McNarry said that he wanted to see “immediate action” by the Secretary of State to lift all parade restrictions and disband the Parades Commission.

The leader of UKIP in Northern Ireland said: “Orangemen should not be treated as criminals waiting for an annual sentence to be meted out by a disreputable Parades Commission. A decision clearing the air on the parades’ commission should be taken immediately. There is no reason why the Secretary of State should not act decisively.

“To ensure Orangemen know where they stand now, the Secretary of State should issue a statement of intent stipulating that future parades are free to walk without imposed restrictions.

“This action should coincide with a parallel announcement relieving the parades’ commission of its powers.”

• Sinn Féin councillor Paul Fleming has condemned the theft of a flag from an Orange hall in Eglinton.

In a statement after a flag was taken from the Orange hall at Coolafinny Road and replaced with a 32 Country Sovereignty Movement flag, he said: “Flags and symbols should be treated with respect and the theft of this flag must be condemned. We want to create a culture of tolerance and actions like this do nothing to contribute to that.”