Peter Robinson (right) has been elected as the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the North at a meeting today.
As observers expected, the 59-year-old east Belfast MP was the clear choice of the 36-strong DUP Northern Ireland Assembly Group to take over from Ian Paisley, who has announced his resignation for May.
At the same meeting North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has been elected as the DUP's new deputy leader.
Assembly members unanimously agreed a joint nomination of Robinson and Dodds and will go to the party's 120-member executive committee on Thursday night to have the nominations formally ratified.
Tánaiste and Taoiseach-elect Brian Cowen is in Belfast this morning for discussions with Mr. Robinson.
In recent years the relationship between Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley was one of the most important driving forces in North-South relationships. Today will see evidence of a new dynamic - involving Brian Cowen and Peter Robinson. From early May on, Cowen will be Taoiseach and in the first week of June Robinson will become Northern Ireland's First Minister.
Over a period of months Cowen and Robinson - both Ministers for Finance in their respective jurisdictions - have been quietly working up a proposal. At noon today they will announce an agreement to allow financial services companies based it the Republic to have back office and middle management jobs located in the North. The arrangement has the approval of the Republic's financial regulator. It is technically complex, but significant in practical and political terms. And it could well be another step forward to a full normalisation which brings the six counties ever closer to a fully integrated Ireland.
The Emerald Islander