N.Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson to step down
Peter Robinson will step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister and as leader of his Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) following months of political turmoil and ill health, he announced Thursday.
Robinson, 66, told the Belfast Telegraph that he will not contest next May's Assembly election and that he would likely leave his posts within weeks.
The unionist politician was hospitalised in May after suffering a heart attack.
He quit temporarily in September following a row with rivals Sinn Fein after one of the republican party's senior members was arrested in connection with the murder of a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) gunman.
The power-sharing government was pulled back from the brink of collapse Tuesday by a deal struck after 10 weeks of deadlock.
The new agreement features a string of measures aimed at easing suspicions about the ongoing role of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland while boosting its economy.
Robinson was expected to reveal his resignation at this weekend's DUP conference, but brought forward the announcement.
"I think it would be disrespectful to the party membership if I was to go through a conference with the pretence that I would be leading the party into the next election," he said.
"When the party officers declare the process -- which I guess would be at the beginning of next year -- then people can start looking at who the successors should be for leader and First Minister," he told the newspaper.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds is the early favourite to take over as DUP leader.
© 2015 AFP