NORTHERN Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson has been admitted to hospital after suffering a suspected heart attack.
The 66-year-old DUP leader was rushed to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital in an ambulance shortly after 9am yesterday morning.
A spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said: “The first minister felt unwell this morning and has been admitted to the hospital for some further tests.”
Senior party sources have confirmed that he is being treated for a suspected heart complaint.
A hospital spokeswoman said: “Mr Robinson underwent a procedure this morning and is currently recovering in the Royal Victoria Hospital.”
The Robinson family, including disgraced Strangford MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Iris Robinson, who sparked a sex scandal in 2010 which led to her husband temporarily standing down, are understood to be at his bedside in the west Belfast hospital.
They have requested privacy at this stage. Prime Minister David Cameron was among the first politicians to wish Mr Robinson well.
He said on Twitter: “My best wishes to Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson, who is in hospital. I hope he has a speedy recovery.”
Sinn Fein’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness wrote that he was worried.
He said: “Concerned to hear first minister Peter Robinson has been admitted to hospital. My thoughts & prayers are with him, Iris & family.”
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds also used Twitter to show his support. He said: “Best wishes to DUP leader Peter Robinson for a quick and full recovery. All our thoughts are with Peter and family. God bless.”
Mike Nesbitt, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) wished the DUP leader a speedy recovery. He said: “I am sorry to hear that the first minister has been taken into hospital this morning and I wish Peter a full and speedy recovery.
“Our thoughts are with him and his family.”
The Royal is Northern Ireland’s largest hospital and the main centre for cardiology.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers also expressed their best wishes on Twitter, as did the cross-community Alliance Party’s Naomi Long – who defeated Mr Robinson in the 2010 Westminster East Belfast election.
Mr Robinson’s period as head of the DUP has been characterised by mixed relations with his coalition partners Sinn Fein.
In a significant development for community relations in Northern Ireland in 2012, he joined deputy first minister Mr McGuinness at a Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) cup final.
Gaelic games are associated with the nationalist community, but his attendance at the Armagh Athletic Grounds followed long-running efforts to build bridges between the GAA and the unionist community.
His most immediate challenge had been expected to be this coming week.
A Sinn Fein veto of welfare reform legislation was set to leave a gaping hole in the power-sharing administration’s budget and could even precipitate its collapse.