Good scoop by Liam Clarke in the Belfast Telegraph with his interview with First Minister, Peter Robinson.
The interview covered areas of welfare reform, Stormont collapsing but the most interesting bit was in Robinson’s future. Asking him about the issue he said;
Nobody goes on forever and I had a timely warning on that in terms of having a heart attack, but I do want to hand over at the right time and I want to hand over in the right circumstances for both the party and the province.
Clarke noted in his interview that Robinson sounds like a man putting together a legacy with success in winning back East Belfast but the goal of balancing Stormont’s books is so far out of reach.
I remember when Sinn Fein pulled the plug on the Stormont House Agreement that commentators speculated that this would like keep Robinson in the job of First Minister until it was sorted. I know there are some people in the DUP musing about doing something similar to Sinn Fein, i.e. one person becoming the First Minister and another the party leader.
Either way Robinson didn’t say for certain that he would contest the next election, but I’d imagine that if he is planning to go he would need to be gone before the party conference in November.
Unlike other parties, the DUP leader is elected by the parliamentary party, so a long contest with the membership won’t be necessary.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs