Peter Robinson with Martin McGuinness after the announcement last week of the new “Fresh Start” Stormont deal.
By Anthony Neeson
North First Minister and Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson has given his final leader’s speech at his party’s annual conference.
Speaking in County Down on Saturday, Robinson said devolution had brought “peace and prosperity” to Northern Ireland, which he described as “a place transformed.”
On Monday, at the Assembly at Stormont, Robinson received a standing ovation – even from Sinn Féin MLAs – when he answered questions for the last time as First Minister.
Mr. Robinson announced last week that he was to step down from his roles as First Minister and DUP leader after successfully concluding the “Fresh Start” agreement at Stormont.
Earlier this year, Mr. Robinson suffered a heart attack and has been in ill-health ever since.
There is speculation that his dual roles in the future will be split with Arlene Foster taking the lead role at Stormont as first minister, and Nigel Dodds becoming DUP party leader.
Speaking on Saturday to party members Mr. Robinson said his “work is almost done, and now it is time for the next generation to stop forward.”
"I wanted to make sure that I was handing over the reins of a political process that was stable and secure for the long term,” he said.
“After a seemingly endless process I am delighted that we have finally reached agreement on the way forward. We have resolved all those toxic issues that threatened the continuation of devolution.”
He added: “So as I prepare to bow out I do so in the knowledge that the province is on safe ground and this party is in good shape to take Northern Ireland forward.”
Robinson said that Ulster was “no longer at the crossroads – we’re on the motorway and on a clear path to a better future.”
One of the founding members of the DUP, Robinson has held the post of First Minister for seven and a half years.