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Last Updated: Tuesday January 12 2010 13:41 GMT

Big trouble in NI politics


What's happening in NI politics?

There is trouble at the highest level of Northern Ireland's government, after the most important person in politics there announced he was stepping down.

Peter Robinson, the first minister, is taking a six week break from his job after a scandal over money.

His wife has admitted getting money for a friend, which she shouldn't have done. Mr Robinson is taking time off to prove he did nothing wrong.

Arlene Foster is stepping in as first minister while he is off.

It has come out in the press that Peter Robinson and his wife Iris, who is also a politician, were having relationship problems.

It was also revealed that Iris Robinson had used her powers to get £50,000 for a friend to start a business.

This was against the rules because Iris didn't tell the government about the money.

Peter and Iris Robinson in 2008
Peter and Iris Robinson in 2008

Power share

Peter Robinson wants to prove he knew nothing about the cash. He could be in trouble if he did know, and didn't tell the authorities.

If it's found that he broke the rules too, he could be forced to leave his job as leader of the DUP.


Because of the way power is shared in Northern Ireland, if Peter Robinson has to leave his job then the leader of the next biggest party, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, will have to step down as well.

If that happened, their parties would have seven days to choose new leaders.

If they failed to do that, people in Northern Ireland would have to vote in another election.