UUP issues just 47-word statement to mark Robinson’s 45 year career

Mike Nesbitt (Ulster Unionist) and Jim Allister (TUV) look on as First Minister Peter Robinson (DUP) re-enacts the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 2012
Mike Nesbitt (Ulster Unionist) and Jim Allister (TUV) look on as First Minister Peter Robinson (DUP) re-enacts the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 2012

After a political career in the DUP spanning more than 45 years, the announced resignation of Peter Robinson prompted a mere 47-word response from the Ulster Unionists.

The statement wished the outgoing first minister well, but its brevity will be viewed as a sign that there is still no love lost between the DUP leader - who masterminded the UUP’s sharp drop in fortunes following the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 - and his main political rivals.

“We wish Peter a long and healthy retirement. Meanwhile, he remains First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive at a time when we share the ambition of seeing Stormont delivering positive outcomes for all our people. We will continue to engage positively with that objective in mind,” the Ulster Unionist spokesman said.

Mr Robinson’s most outspoken critic, TUV leader Jim Allister, also wished him well “on a personal level”.

Mr Allister said: “He has undoubtable been a very able politician but I am sure he is now looking forward to retirement, particularly given his recent health problems.”

However, the North Antrim MLA added: “I am saddened for him and for Northern Ireland that his legacy is to confirm IRA/Sinn Fein in government. Even though the IRA killed again, even though we now know the Army Council controls Sinn Fein, that the IRA still has weapons and still reserves the right to kill as and when it sees fit Mr Robinson was prepared just last week to sweep murder under the carpet and to renew his vows with Republicans in government.”

David McNarry, UKIP’s leader in Northern Ireland, said: “I wish Peter Robinson well in his retirement. His retirement marks the close of another chapter in the history of unionism. It not only opens opportunities for new leaders but it marks another stage in the development of unionism.”

Mr McNarry added: “The recent engagement in a political settlement, the latest of many, underscores the significant clout national politics and the UK Government has in our local affairs.

“With this in mind, and given the overwhelming majority who wish to remain part of the UK as evidenced in recent opinion polls, we can not only say that the Union and unionism is safe, we can see how Northern Ireland politics needs to become more fully engaged in national politics and in national affairs.”

PUP councillor John Kyle described Mr Robinson as a “resilient” politician.

“On a regional level, looking at Northern Ireland and Belfast as a whole, his ability to attract foreign inward investment, and high end employment, has been impressive. But in the area of lower skilled jobs I think that people may feel that he didn’t deliver for his constituency at a time when a lot of people were being made redundant.

“As a tactician he was very able and astute, but I think in terms of what he did for east Belfast the scorecard is mixed. We have seen a major loss of employment during his time, and we have seen a very patchy provision in terms of training and re-employment.”

Cllr Kyle added: “I think he was a very able political negotiator. When it came to political negotiations he was as good as any politician in Northern Ireland.

“I think he knew how to get the maximum out of any negotiation that he was going in to. You have to admire him for his longevity.”