Stormont to meet to appoint new Northern Executive

Martin McGuinness confident issue of selecting minister of justice will be settled

Martin McGuinness: announced four Sinn Féin Assembly members yesterday, including one junior minister, who will join him in the Northern Executive. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye /PA Wire

Martin McGuinness: announced four Sinn Féin Assembly members yesterday, including one junior minister, who will join him in the Northern Executive. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye /PA Wire

 

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he is “100 per cent confident” a minister of justice will be appointed today and a new Northern Executive will have its first full meeting tomorrow.

Mr McGuinness made his prediction at Stormont yesterday after he announced the four Sinn Féin Assembly members, including one junior minister, who will join him in the Northern Executive.

They are Michelle O’Neill (39), who was minister of agriculture in the last Executive, and new Ministers Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (57), Chris Hazzard (31) and Megan Fearon (24).

The outgoing Sinn Féin ministers who are not being returned to the Executive are former education minister John O’Dowd, former culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín and former junior minister Jennifer McCann.

There was some surprise yesterday that former minister Conor Murphy, tipped as a possible successor to Mr McGuinness , was not among the Sinn Féin Ministers.

Portfolios

It will not be known until this afternoon what portfolios the Ministers will take on. There is speculation Mr Ó Muilleoir, who is also a businessman and publisher, will be appointed as minister of the economy. In such an eventuality the education department which Sinn Féin has held since 1999, apart from periods of suspension, could go to the DUP.

With the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP going into opposition, and with Alliance appearing to rule itself out from retaking the justice department, potentially all eight departments could to DUP and Sinn Féin.

Under the d’Hondt system of appointing ministers Sinn Féin is entitled to three ministries and one junior department while the DUP is entitled to four departments and one junior. The minister of justice is appointed outside the d’Hondt system. It remained unclear last night who would get this position and Mr McGuinness indicated that there were still negotiations to be concluded.

The speculation is that Independent unionist MLA Claire Sugden or Greens leader Steven Agnew could be the compromise appointment.