Peter Robinson revealed he will step down as DUP leader some time after Christmas.Photocall Hutton / Photocall Ireland

Peter Robinson announced he is to step down as Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) just days after a new deal was struck to break a months’ long political deadlock in Stormont (Northern Ireland government).

Robinson, 67, told Northern Ireland newspaper the Belfast Telegraph that he will not contest next May’s assembly elections and will step aside as leader in the coming weeks, most likely just after Christmas, ending over 40 years in politics.

Speaking to the paper before the DUP conference this Saturday, Robinson said, "I am telling you this now, because I think it would be disrespectful to the party membership if I was to go through a conference with the pretense that I would be leading the party into the next election. I think they have a right to know what the circumstances are."

He states that he has achieved all of his goals as DUP leader and, as he believes in a two-term maximum for those in the top political roles, it is time for him to step aside.

“There are massive pressures on anybody in this job. You do need to renew political leadership, bringing in people with perhaps more energy and people with new ideas," he said.

Leader of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams extended his best wishes to the First Minister: “Sinn Féin and the DUP worked closely in recent months through a difficult negotiation to achieve Tuesday’s Stormont House Agreement.

“Sinn Féin will continue to work with the DUP and Peter’s successor and with the other political parties as part of the effort to deliver on the recent agreement and to resolve outstanding issues from other agreements.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness followed Adams’ words in a statement that commented on his goo working relationship with Robinson despite their political differences.

"I have worked closely with Peter Robinson in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister since June 2008,” he said.

"During that time we have had a close and professional working relationship and, despite media perception, it has always been courteous and amicable.”

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson. Image: Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland.

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson. Image: Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland.

In May 2015, Robinson suffered a heart attack, and, though he denies that his health is the reason for his decision, he admitted that the lifestyle he leads in his current roles does not allow him to follow the medical advice given to him after the attack.

“While I was lying horizontal in hospital I got all sorts of advice and lectures on what I should be eating and looking after myself, in terms of sleeping more than I allow myself at the present time. I was advised to avoid pressure and get more exercise. For at least a fortnight I kept all of those rigidly, but it is remarkable how soon you slip back into all those old bad habits with this kind of job."

First elected to Westminster as an MP for East Belfast in 1979, Robinson became DUP deputy leader the following year.

He became leader of the DUP and First Minister in 2008, succeeding Ian Paisley.

He revealed that this is the third time he suggested stepping down to party officers, the first time coming in 2011 not long after losing his seat as an MP in 2010 and the mental breakdown of his wife, and the second just after the General Election last May.

Although the party officers accepted his third offer, they have requested that he remain in office for the coming weeks to oversee the implementation of the Fresh Start Agreement announced on Tuesday by Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Republic of Ireland Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.

A Fresh Start for Northern Ireland,” achieved after talks overseen by Villiers and Flanagan that lasted 10 weeks and more than 150 sessions, will implement many aspects of the previously failed Stormont House Agreement, addressing concerns over the continued existence of paramilitary groups, as well as establishing a cross-border agency to deal with organized crime, border crime and smuggling and allowing for a full devolution of corporate tax power by 2018, reducing the rate of tax in Northern Ireland to 12.5 percent, the same rate as the Republic.

Today, Robinson is set to reveal more about the Fresh Start deal and the talks.

He also suggested that his successor as DUP party leader would not necessarily take on the role of First Minister but that the positions may be spilt in the future.

The offices of Deputy First Minister and leader of Sinn Féin are separated in this manner with Martin McGuinness in the role of Deputy First Minister, while Gerry Adams is party leader.

The Belfast Telegraph suggests that current Finance Minister Arlene Foster will take on the role of First Minister while Nigel Dodds will lead the party once Robinson leaves the role.

Foster was the only DUP Minister to remain in September when Robinson and the rest of the DUP Ministers resigned in protest over claims that paramilitaries were still active in Northern Ireland, stating they couldn’t continue in power with Sinn Fein if this was true.

Reactions to Robinson's announcement have been mixed with some Belfast residents believing that Arlene Foster should take on the role of First Minister.

“I like her because she is the only politician from the DUP that handles Gerry Kelly from Sinn Féin,” Alfie Kelly told the Irish Times.

“She’s the only one that has the measure of him when they debate.

Other reactions showed a mixture of well-wishing, shock and apathy.

Robinson joked that he may become a journalist when he retires. He intends to stay in Northern Ireland.

"I have nothing decided and that is part of the attraction of it all. I am not the sort of person who sits at home with a blanket around my knees. I want to continue doing things," he concluded.

Is this the right time for Peter Robinson to step down? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.