Robinson to step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister

Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson has announced in a newspaper his intention to step down as Northern Ireland's First Minister.

Mr Robinson's article in the Belfast Telegraph, written ahead of his party's conference, confirmed he will not contest next May's Assembly election and is likely leave office in the coming weeks.

The announcement came two days after a deal was struck to salvage Stormont's crisis-hit power-sharing administration following 10 weeks of negotiations over a range of disputes, including the fallout from a murder linked to the IRA.

Peter Robinson, who suffered a heart attack earlier this year, has confirmed will not contest his seat at next May's Assembly election. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Mr Robinson had stepped down in September at the height of the political crisis, but returned as First Minister last month after a Government-ordered report into paramilitary activities in Northern Ireland was published.

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph on his decision to permanently step down, Mr Robinson said: "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."

Westminster-based North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds will be among the favourites to take over as DUP leader, though another senior party figure may take on the role of Stormont First Minister.

Current Finance Minister Arlene Foster has been touted as a potential leader of the coalition.