Peter Robinson has replaced hardliner Ian Paisley as leader of Northern Ireland's major Protestant party.

Executives of the Democratic Unionist Party Saturday confirmed Robinson's nomination as the new party chief at a meeting in Castlereagh, near Belfast.

Robinson served as the party's deputy leader for nearly three decades. He has also served as finance minister in Northern Ireland's government, which shares power with Catholics.

Robinson has played a key role in the 2006 peace agreement which led to the formation of a power-sharing government between the DUP and the rival Sinn Fein, formerly the political wing of the paramilitary Irish Republican Army.

Paisley announced in March that he would resign both as leader of the power-sharing government and as head of the Democratic Unionist Party. He has led the party for almost 40 years.

Paisley did not specify reasons for his resignation other than saying the time is right.

Both Paisley and Robinson opposed the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords until finally agreeing on a power-sharing government with Sinn Fein almost a decade later.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.