Tragedy inspired career politician’s climb to top

WITH a holiday home in Florida and a sprawling property in east Belfast, Peter Robinson, 61, enjoys the rewards of a life lived in the political spotlight.

Tragedy inspired career politician’s climb to top

In 1971, he was one of the founder members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The death of a school friend, Harry Beggs, killed that year in an IRA bombing at Northern Ireland Electricity headquarters, spurred the young Mr Robinson to enter politics.

He won the East Belfast parliamentary seat in 1979, turning over an Ulster Unionist majority of 17,000. He became DUP deputy leader a year later and was the youngest MP in Britain when he entered Parliament aged 30.

As deputy, he plotted the DUP’s election strategies, which finally saw it become the largest voice in unionism.

Mr Robinson married Iris Collins in July 1970. They were the first husband and wife team to represent the Northern Ireland constituencies in parliament.

Mr Robinson was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982 and went on to be minister for regional development and finance during a later sitting of the Assembly.

The low point was his arrest following the invasion of Clontibret, in Co Monaghan, by 500 loyalists in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1986 which gave Dublin a role in Northern Ireland affairs.

He later pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly. He was also connected with an Ulster Resistance rally in 1986.

Despite the protests, he remained ready to chart a way forward and drew up a Unionist Task Force report together with Ulster Unionists Harold McCusker and Frank Millar.

Mr Robinson opposed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement

He took office as minister for regional development and his grasp of detail was well-respected, but he refused to take part in Stormont Executive meetings.

His rapid rise through the DUP saw him become a key negotiator of the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, which helped to limit the power of individual ministers.

After the restoration of devolution in May 2007, he took the finance ministry and helped make revitalising the local economy the main theme of the new Stormont Executive’s programme for government. In his first budget he froze the Stormont regional rate.

His rise culminated in his appointment as leader of the party and First Minister in 2008 following Ian Paisley’s retirement.

He has been pursuing a settlement of the dispute over the devolution of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast.

Outside politics he keeps Koi fish, an ornamental variety of carp. His football loyalties sway between Spurs and Chelsea.

He is a devoted music fan, anything from rock to country star Tammy Wynette.

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