Martin McGuinness agrees to major overhaul of Stormont

Peter Robinson welcomes what he says are long-standing DUP proposals

First Minister Peter Robinson has "very much" welcomed proposals by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that the size of the Assembly and Northern Executive be reduced.

In what could be the beginning of some give-and-take politics to try to heal divisions threatening the future of the power-sharing institutions, Mr McGuinness caused surprise yesterday by expressing a willingness to agree to some DUP proposals to overhaul Stormont.

Looking to the next Assembly, which will be elected in 2016, Mr McGuinness said he would support reducing the number of members from 108 to 90 by moving from 18 six-seat to 18 five-seat constituencies.

Again, in line with long-standing DUP proposals, he said he would also support cutting the number of Stormont departments, which currently stand at 12. Previously, Sinn Féin resisted such proposals because they might marginalise smaller parties and independents.


Both Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness also signalled in Belfast yesterday that, as soon as the fallout from the Scottish referendum was over, intensive all-party talks should be initiated.

There have been considerable tensions between the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in recent months over a wide range of issues such as welfare reform, parades, flags and the past and future of the Maze prison site.

Yesterday, however, there were signs that the two leaders are seriously preparing themselves for all-party talks that would address all of these issues. Mr Robinson said he discussed the proposed talks with Mr McGuinness on Monday and also with other party leaders.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times