Northern Ireland news

Peter Robinson: 'When Martin walked away he was very frail, I think a healthy McGuinness would have taken a different position'

Peter Robinson (right) pictured with Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle, Belfast in 2015. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

FORMER DUP leader Peter Robinson said he believes Sinn Féin would have resigned from Stormont's power-sharing government, whether the RHI scandal had happened or not.

The former First Minister also said he felt things may have been different had former deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness not been in ill-health when he resigned in 2017.

"When Martin walked away he was very frail, I think a healthy McGuinness would have taken a different position," he said.

In an interview with the Stephen Nolan Show, Mr Robinson described his relationship with Mr McGuinness, revealing that while they may have disagreed, they "still held each other's confidence".

"I don't think I ever questioned Martin McGuinness adherence to the principles of the St Andrew's Agreement," he said.

"I think he was someone who wanted Stormont and the agreement to work and wanted to make progress. Every day we were having to negotiate in the First Ministers' office, not just on the big issues and were able to make compromises every day."

He added: "We had disagreements of course, I can remember one occasion when I had a press conference I was speaking and he was shaking his head and he was speaking and I was shaking my head.

"Overall at that time we never had a shouting match or fell out to the point we couldn't pick up the phone and talk.

"We still held each other's confidence, if those issues go public before an agreement can be reached both sides are damaged.

"The ability to keep confidence is a big loss in the current time.

"There has been alot of 'he said she said' issues which have damaged the confidence the parties have in each other."

Mr Robinson said he believed Sinn Féin may have resigned from government regardless of the RHI scandal.

"None of us know what would have happened, if Sinn Féin were determined to bring down the institutions," he said.

"It wasn't really RHI because they've drifted to other issues and would have found another excuse to bring it down."

He added that recent discussions between the DUP and Sinn Féin did not offer "an awful lot in it for the unionist community to be a good deal".

"It satisfied Sinn Féin but unionists have issues they wanted to be resolved too, you have to have a balance," he said.

He also said he felt his successor Arlene Foster "deserves more credit given particularly the background she had in her childhood and into adulthood".

Mr Robinson also said he had voted in favour of Brexit and didn't envisage a hard border returning to Northern Ireland, before commenting he also "wouldn't even contemplate a United Ireland".

"There won't be a united Ireland people will want to remain within the UK when they have to make those decisions they will see the massive benefits of being part of the union," he said.

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