someone is responsible for murder, are we not allowed to call them a murderer?"
Yet there were signs of peacemaking. David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader who staked his political career on keeping his party in the peace process, emerged as a moderating force.
And for all the fire and brimstone from Robinson, who accepted his nomination as regional development minister by promising to "frustrate and thwart Northern Ireland being pulled into a united Ireland," a conciliatory side emerged.
During a break in the proceedings, he and Mallon shook hands.
Northern Ireland's administration
First Minister David Trimble, 54
A former law professor who took charge of the Ulster Unionists in 1995. Considered a hard-liner at first, but proved pragmatic as peace process accelerated. Shared Nobel Peace Prize last year.
Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon, 63
SDLP's deputy leader for two decades, he is a stern opponent of IRA violence. Despite his title, Mallon's supervisory role over Cabinet carries same authority as Trimble's.
Minister of Agriculture Brid Rodgers, 62
The most prominent woman in SDLP, she has taken party's lead role in opposing divisive Protestant parades.
Minister of CultureMichael McGimpsey, 51
A soft-spoken intellectual and moderate within Ulster Unionism and close Trimble confidante. Educated at Dublin's Trinity College, unusual for northern Protestants.
Minister of Education Martin McGuinness, 49
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, credited with rebuilding the IRA in mid-1970s as senior commander. Born in Londonderry's impoverished Bogside district, flash point for three decades of conflict.
Minister of Trade Reg Empey, 51
Empey entered Ulster Unionist politics alongside Trimble as a hard-liner in early 1970s and traveled same long road to moderation. Won kudos as party's dogged lead negotiator.
Minister of Environment Sam Foster, 68
A former major in Northern Ireland's locally recruited British army regiment, Foster is another Ulster Unionist moderate. Lives near County Fermanagh border, where the IRA intimidated many Protestants.
Minister of Finance and Personnel Mark Durkan, 39
Favored political son of SDLP leader John Hume, being groomed for party's leadership, Londonderry-born Durkan is also the youngest Cabinet member.
Minister of Social Services and Public Safety Bairbre de Brun, 44
A Sinn Fein activist with no IRA background, she has been increasingly prominent in party's effort to promote sexual equality in ranks. Before entering politics, she taught in one of Catholic West Belfast's community-run Irish language schools.
Minister of Higher Education and Employment Sean Farren, 60
The Dublin-born economics lecturer and longtime SDLP activist played an early role alongside Hume in talks with Sinn Fein designed to encourage eventual IRA cease-fire.
Minister for Regional Development Peter Robinson, 49
Deputy leader of Democratic Unionists, the former real estate agent travels in an armored Mercedes because of IRA assassination fears. Flirted with paramilitary extremism in 1980s.
Minister for Social Development Nigel Dodds, 40
A Cambridge-educated lawyer and longtime aide to Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley. Escaped when IRA gunmen tried to ambush him in a hospital three years ago.