FINANCE Minister and local DUP MLA Arlene Foster has paid tribute to the outgoing First Minister Peter Robinson.
Mr Robinson will step down from his roles as Northern Ireland first minister and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader within weeks, his party has confirmed.
Mrs Foster, who previously served as acting first minister in 2010 and 2015 is, alongside Fermanagh man Nigel Dodds, the favourite to take over from Mr Robinson as DUP leader and today she paid a heartfelt tribute to her party colleague
Speaking today Arlene Foster MLA said,
“I am extremely sad as our Party leader and First Minister announces his decision to retire.
In many ways no one deserves a long and happy retirement more than Peter but for those of us who work closely with him it is a wrench and he leaves a void that will be very difficult to fill.
The DUP, unionism and Northern Ireland owe a huge debt of gratitude to Peter for his forty years of unstinting public service. He is without equal within Unionism for his strategic ability to chart a course through many difficult periods in our Province. His strategic vision, calm reflection and decisive decision making, will mark him out as something very special. His vision for our country over the years was shaped by his love for Northern Ireland and his determination to build a settled Northern Ireland within the Union. He has achieved that vision.
As Northern Ireland’s longest serving First Minister Peter’s steady hand has guided us during both calm and challenging periods. Even during the recent political discussions his contribution ensured he was able to conclude the right deal for Northern Ireland.
On a personal level Peter was instrumental in my decision to join the Democratic Unionist Party over twelve years ago and it has been my privilege to work alongside him in both a party and Ministerial capacity. I very much appreciated his support and encouragement to me.
I know that while his role will change he will continue to help and support us as we work to implement what has recently been agreed. Unionism is stronger today as a result of the sacrificial labours of Peter Robinson and for that we are eternally grateful.
Ulster is losing a great leader but his legacy will be with us for many years ”