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Embattled N Ireland leader could return within fortnight

Last Updated: Sunday, January 17, 2010 - 13:41

London: Northern Ireland`s First Minister Peter Robinson said on Sunday he could be back in full charge within two weeks, having stepped aside to deal with a sex and money scandal engulfing his wife Iris.
Robinson also told The Sunday Times newspaper his wife, who is receiving acute psychiatric treatment, was in an unfit state to give reliable answers.

And in a symbolic first, the Democratic Unionist Party leader also said the situation had led him to shake hands with his Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of the DUP`s old foes Sinn Fein, the other main party in Northern Ireland`s power-sharing government.

Robinson stepped aside temporarily on Monday to clear his name over financial allegations linked to his wife`s affair with a teenage cafe proprietor.

The scandal comes at an already sensitive time as the DUP and Sinn Fein try to thrash out their entrenched differences on when policing and justice powers should be devolved from London to Belfast, the final stage of devolution.

"I`ve handed over some duties to (Enterprise Minister) Arlene Foster, my colleague, for up to six weeks, but maybe it will be only two. I`ll see," Robinson told The Sunday Times.

"People are asking what effect this will have on the political process, but I will continue to lead the negotiations with Martin McGuinness on the devolution of policing and justice. We are down to the last three issues.”

"He kindly sent me text and voice mail messages and spoke to me privately. When I saw him he expressed sympathy and put out his hand."


First Published: Sunday, January 17, 2010 - 13:41

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