Northern Ireland

NI First Minister Peter Robinson 'stable and improving'

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Media captionNigel Dodds said Mr Robinson is "stable and improving"

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson is "stable and improving", his party deputy has said.

Mr Robinson remains in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) after suffering a suspected heart attack.

Mr Robinson, 66, was taken to the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, on Monday morning after he became ill.

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party was then transferred to the RVH where he underwent a procedure.

On Tuesday morning, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said Mr Robinson was feeling better and the family hoped for a speedy recovery.

Referring to the major debate on welfare reform at Stormont on Tuesday, he said: "Peter is very determined that today's proceedings should continue."

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Image caption The first minister's hospitalisation came on the eve of a major debate at Stormont over welfare reform

A statement released by the hospital on Monday said: "Mr Robinson underwent a procedure this morning and is currently recovering in the RVH.

"He and his family have requested the need for privacy from this point onwards."

Mr Robinson has served as first minister and DUP leader since 2008, succeeding lan Paisley in both jobs.

The DUP has asked that the Robinson family's privacy should be respected.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his best wishes to Mr Robinson, wishing him a speedy recovery.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also sent her best wishes.

Other politicians including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, TUV leader Jim Allister and Mr Robinson's Stormont colleague Peter Weir have wished Mr Robinson a speedy recovery.

Controversial debate

Last week, Mr Robinson warned that the assembly could not survive the scenario that would unfold if the welfare reform bill was not approved.

The Northern Ireland parties had agreed a deal on Westminster's welfare reform in the Stormont House Agreement last December.

However, Sinn Féin withdrew its support for the bill in March.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have signed a petition of concern which means the bill appears certain to be blocked on Tuesday as it will not get the necessary cross-community support.