Northern Ireland

Robinson calls critics 'tribe of Jeremiahs'

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Media captionFirst Minister Peter Robinson said he was "depressed" listening to political critics

First minister Peter Robinson has launched an outspoken attack on his critics at Stormont calling them "a tribe of Jeremiahs who infest the political process".

He was responding to complaints that last week's shared future initiative was not shown to some Executive parties before being released.

He accused them of leaking information to the media.

Mr Robinson said he was "depressed" listening to his critics at Stormont.

The first minister came to the Assembly on Tuesday to outline the new shared future document Together Building a United Community, five days after it had been unveiled.

But when the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt asked him if he agreed with Sinn Fein Minister John O'Dowd who replied "so what?" when asked about the lack of consultation with other parties, Mr Robinson went on the attack.

Using increasingly biblical terms Mr Robinson said he was depressed listening to what he called "a tribe of Jeremiahs infesting the political process".

He said some politicians "pontificated" about the need for a shared society, but "strained every sinew" to block initiatives if they were not in the lead.

He accused them of "foot dragging, whinging, stalling and posturing" on issues like building a shared future.

'United youth'

The first minister defended his department's decision not to brief other ministers on their shared future proposals.

Pointing to the BBC's publication of a draft shared future strategy paper, he argued that it was inevitable that anything said in confidence would end up being leaked.

"We are doing what the community wants and the community wants Northern Ireland to move forward," he told the assembly.

"The very heart of this is good relations, wanting to see our community as one unity and moving forward.

"I believe that we do have a generation that is keen to see change and is urging politicians to move forward."

Last week, on 9 May, the first and deputy first ministers announced how they intended to progress building a shared future in Northern Ireland.

The proposals include a target of bringing down all of Northern Ireland's peace walls by 2023.

The ministers also want to establish a "united youth programme", in which 10,000 people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training, would be given a one-year placement with a stipend.

Junior Minister Jonathan Bell has previously said the shared future proposals would cost around £500m.

Mr Robinson said this figure was a "gauge and expectation".

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