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Daily View: Peter Robinson's future

Clare Spencer | 10:31 UK time, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Peter RobinsonCommentators react to Peter Robinson's decision to step down as Northern Ireland's first minister for six weeks following revelations about his wife's personal and financial affairs. They discuss what this means for devolution and power-sharing.

The Belfast Telegraph's editorial suggests some knock-on effects:

"His absence from office leaves an inescapable void. While he has pledged to continue working to resolve the impasse over the devolution of policing and justice, he does so without the authority of his office and the temporary holder of the office, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, will also lack the clout to reach any agreement with Sinn Fein."

Noel McAdam in the Irish Independent accuses Mr Robinson of procrastination:

"Some said the DUP leader standing aside as first minister was the price Mr Robinson had to pay to gain the party show of solidarity. The move had lanced the immediate crisis facing the Assembly, but simply put off the really hard questions for another day."

Liam Clarke in the News Letter says this exposes the intricate nature of power-sharing:

"The big problem for the DUP in permanently replacing Peter Robinson as First Minister is that they require Sinn Fein's co-operation and have little or no goodwill to call on... The party has misused its time in government and painted itself into a corner which it will be very hard to get out of without making immediate concessions on policing and justice."

Gerry Moriarty in the Irish Times analyses DUP support for Peter Robinson:

"There are a number of factors that explain the party's backing of Robinson. One is simple self-preservation. The party seems likely to suffer in the Westminster elections expected in May or possibly earlier but by opening up the possibility of a deal on policing and justice there is a reasonable chance that the Northern Executive and Assembly could see out its lifetime to May next year."

Better known as the founder of politics blog Slugger O'Toole, Mick Fealty in the Times says Peter Robinson's "clever footwork" had stopped catastophe overwhelming his party:

"Had Mr Robinson resigned yesterday, it would have spelt the end of devolving policing and justice. And with unionism split three ways it would have been almost impossible to resurrect the current all-inclusive governmental arrangements.
His six-week stay of execution is a breathing space for everyone else. But for Mr Robinson, his political career is almost over."

The Guardian editorial predicts Mr Robinson's career may not be written off:

"Memories in politics are often short, but rarely in the politics of Northern Ireland. So, while Peter Robinson's decision yesterday to step aside temporarily as first minister may have struck London politicos as a last-ditch attempt to delay his seemingly inevitable resignation, it looks a bit different from a Northern Ireland perspective."

The Independent editorial asks if the peace process is bigger than one man:

"The Westminster election is uncomfortably close for a party swamped with sleaze. If he goes, it will be seen whether the peace process can successfully proceed without him or whether one man really is indispensable to its survival."

Links in full

Belfast TelegraphBelfast Telegraph | A small step from scandal to crisis
Irish Times Gerry Moriarty | Irish Times | Robinson has bought time to strike devolution deal
see alsoLiam Clarke | Newsletter | The DUP are in a corner
Irish IndependentNoel McAdam | Irish Indpendent | A perfect storm at Stormont
TimesMick Fealty | Times | Who really wins and loses in Irisgate?
TimesTimes | The Irish Family Robinson
GuardianGuardian | Northern Ireland: Into extra time
GuardianRobin Wilson | Guardian | Stormont's broken bones
IndependentIndependent | One man in the thick of it
IndependentDavid McKittrick | Independent | Grassroots will decide if leader survives

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