Robinson describes his own time spent as Crumlin prisoner

Peter Robinson accompanied the Queen on her visit to Crumlin jail today, and is no stranger to its cells himself.

He was an inmate in the 1980s after being imprisoned over his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and in the above video he told reporters about the experience.

First Minister Peter Robinson during Royal visit to Crumlin Road jail

First Minister Peter Robinson during Royal visit to Crumlin Road jail

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was held in the prison too.

He spent over a month in 1976 on a charge of IRA membership; a count that was later dropped in court.

In addition today (July 24), politicians were asked about the significance of the location of the Royal engagement.

The Crumlin Road sits not too far from the Twaddell-Ardoyne interface, and the latter district has seen numerous dissident incidents in recent times – as has the New Lodge, at the other end of the road.

“I think it’s an indication of how far we’ve come,” said North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds.

“It also indicates how firmly Northern Ireland is part of the UK, and I think we need to keep building on that progress and not allow those dissidents out there, and others who want to drag us backward, to succeed in their evil and wicked ways.”

Meanwhile, Mr Robinson challenged this reporter’s description of the area, saying not everyone considers it to be quite so contentious.

He added: “Of course, there is a security presence here, but these are changed times.

“If you look around you today you would see there are people from both sections of our local community here, and people from many different ethnic backgrounds as well.”

Reconciliation was a strong theme throughout the visit, with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness telling reporters that such events were a bid by him “to reach out the hand of friendship, through her, to the unionist community”.

He said: “These are also vitally important acts of reconciliation. I think the fact that Queen Elizabeth and I can do this, free of recrimination about the past, I think sends a very powerful message to everybody about how we can go forward.”

He said the Queen herself “really understands the importance of this in the context of the peace process”.

Asked about the dissidents, Mr McGuinness said: “The so-called dissident groups can’t slow down political progress. The only people who can slow down political progress are the politicians.”