Robinson named new DUP leader

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Indy Politics

The Democratic Unionist Party chose Peter Robinson as its new leader today.

The 59-year-old east Belfast MP was the choice of the 36-strong Assembly Group to take over from the Rev Ian Paisley, with North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds as the new deputy leader.

Assembly members unanimously agreed a joint nomination of Mr Robinson and Mr Dodds and will go to the party's 120-member executive committee on Thursday night to have the nominations formally ratified.

In a statement, the DUP Assembly group revealed that Mr Robinson and Mr Dodds' joint nomination was proposed by East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson and seconded by Stormont Environment Minister Arlene Foster.

"This joint nomination was unanimously agreed and will now be taken forward for ratification to the party's Central Executive Committee on Thursday, 17 April, in Castlereagh council offices," they said.

"We are respectful that the process is not complete. Therefore DUP representatives will be making no further comment until after the executive meeting on Thursday evening."

Mr Robinson, who is the Stormont Finance Minister, has been the deputy leader of the party since 1980 and the MP for East Belfast since 1979.

Regarded as one of the most able politicians of his generation in Northern Ireland, he has carved out a firm reputation as a strong performer at the despatch box in the Assembly.

In the previous power-sharing executive, he served as the Regional Development Minister.

A tough-talking, no-nonsense politician, he played a major part in the DUP's rise to becoming Northern Ireland's largest political party in the 2003 Assembly Election - a position it has not relinquished since.

A keen golfer, he also collects a colourful array of ties and breeds Japanese Koi fish at his Belfast home.

As Finance Minister, he successfully steered a budget through the Assembly and has driven reforms to the domestic rates.

Following his election as the DUP's Assembly Group's leader-designate, he will be meeting Irish Finance Minister Brian Cowen in Belfast for a major jobs announcement.

Mr Cowen was last week chosen by Fianna Fail as its new leader to replace Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach when he steps down next month.

With the Rev Ian Paisley due to quit after a Stormont Executive investment conference next month, today's meeting between Mr Robinson and Mr Cowen will provide a glimpse of the relationship between Dublin and unionist leaders when both men take over as the head of their respective administrations.