Belfast locals give views on Peter Robinson stepping down

Reaction ranges from apathy to kind words and surprise on DUP leader’s plans to quit

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson speaks about his decision to step down at Stormont Castle, November 19th, 2015. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson speaks about his decision to step down at Stormont Castle, November 19th, 2015. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

On the cobbles outside Belfast City Hall, views among locals on the decision of Peter Robinson to stand down as First Minister ranged from apathy, kind words, “it’s about time” comments, to surprise.

Banker John McGahan (50) from Belfast believes current deputy leader Nigel Dodds will probably take over the DUP top job: “I am indifferent because Northern Ireland politics is a nonsense,” he said.

Looking around, he went on: “Thirty years ago, where we are standing, there were barriers - so he has been part of that process of change so there is some positivity.”

‘Steady hand’

Eileen Donnelly (58), a sales consultant from Killinchy, Co Down, expressed concern about who might replace Mr Robinson: “I think he has had a difficult job to do and has been a pretty steady hand on the tiller,” she said.

“I think [Minister for Finance] Arlene Foster should be First Minister as she has worked closely with Peter Robinson and has brought trade to the country. She has a good grasp of what is needed.”

However, she wanted to be sure that Foster can work with Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness: “We need to move this place on and create jobs.”

Retired Belfast woman Liz Barrett (55) does not have much love for Mr Robinson, as she disagrees with his stance on issues such as marriage equality for the LGBT community.

“I don’t really like him very much.

“The only thing I did like was he became friendly with McGuinness for a short time, but then the little bigotries came up.

“I don’t like his stance on same-sex marriage.”

Ms Barrett also believes Nigel Dodds will take over the party.

“I don’t think they will bring in new blood because they won’t be right-wing enough,” she added.

‘Good leadership’

Tour guide Alfie Quigley (43) from the Belvoir area thinks Mr Robinson “did a good job” as First Minister and DUP leader. “He showed good leadership dealing with Sinn Féin, having a good relationship with them, making tough calls with cuts and he has made the union stronger.”

Mr Quigley believes one person should not take over both posts next year and says he would like Ms Foster, who has before stood in for Mr Robinson as First Minister, to next take up the post.

“I like her because she is the only politician from the DUP that handles Gerry Kelly from Sinn Féin,” he explained.

“She’s the only one that has the measure of him when they debate.

“He is smart but so is she and she keeps him in line.”