Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Here's to You Mr. Robinson

So the DEmocratic Unionist Party have named Peter Robinson as the sucessor to the Rev. Ian Paisley as party leader. So for those not too familiar with Northern Ireland politics who is the man who has stood in the shadow of Dr No for so long.

Robinson was born in 1948 and was educated at Annadale Grammer School and Castlereagh College of Further Education both of which reside in his Belfast East constituency. He 1970 he married Iris Collins. She was elected MP for Strangford in 2001 making them the first husband and wife team to represent Northern Irish constituencies in Westminster.

He is a foundation member of the DUP, being an executive member since 1973, was elected secretary of the Central Executive Committee the following year and the party's first General-Secretary in 1975.

He first win in politics was to Castlereagh Borough Council in 1977 a seat he retained until 2007, when he finally stepped aside from his trio of roles. In 1979 he was first elected to Westminster, for East Belfast, with a margin of 64 votes over the Ulster Unionist Party encumbant William Craig, and 928 votes ahead of the non-sectarian Alliance Party's leader Oliver Napier. He has held the seat ever since athough with all the other Unionist MPs in Northern Ireland he resigned his seat in 1985 in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement but had no difficulty in retaining it at the subsequent by election. He is the longest sitting Member of Parliament for any Belfast seat since the Act of Union in 1800.

Also as part of the Anglo-Irish Agreement Protest Robinson led a group of 500 loyalist into Clontibret, Co. Monaghan over the border where they entered the Garda Síochána (police) Station, held a military style drill session and assaulted two officers. Robinson was arrested for the incident and pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly at Drogheda Court where he was fines £17,500. A subsequent court appearance in Dundalk led to a riot and him being branded an senior extremist politician by the Judge.

In November 1986 he spoke at the Ulster Hall for the launch of Ulster Resistance a group which collaborated with the UVF and UDA to procure arms ready for a potential civil war to maintain the Union.

Robinson was also elected in 1982 to the ill-fated, short-lived Northern Irish Assmebly. Subsequently he was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum which led to the Good Friday Agreement and again topped the poll for East Belfast at the 1998 Assembly Elections. In the devolved stages of that first executive Robinson served as Minister for Regional Development, where he helped formulate the 25 year Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland and he devised the ten-year Regional Transport Strategy. After the five year suspension when the Northern Ireland Executive reformed he became Minister for Personel and Finance, but in June he will suceed as First Minister.

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