Claire Sugden elected as new Justice Minister
Claire Sugden, the independent MLA for East Londonderry, has been elected Northern Ireland’s new Justice Minister.
Ms Sugden’s unexpected appointment followed a decision by the Alliance Party not to nominate someone to the role, despite speculation that Alliance MLA Stephen Farry would take on the role held since creation by Alliance leader David Ford.
The 29-year-old’s appointment today means that Northern Ireland voters will not have to go back to the polls in a second election.
John Guerin, president of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, said: “We welcome the appointment of Claire Sugden MLA as the new Justice Minister at what is undoubtedly a challenging time for justice and the solicitors’ profession in Northern Ireland.
“There are a number of pressing issues which the Society will be keen to discuss with the new Justice Minister not least the impact of court closures on the local community and businesses, the provision of legal aid and how we ensure that those seeking access to justice are provided with independent legal advice.
“We will also take the opportunity to emphasise how crucial legal services are to the development of our economy and the cohesion of our communities.
“These benefits flow from the impartial resolution of disputes and access to high quality legal advice for local communities and businesses.
“With these aims in mind, the Society looks forward to working with the new Minister to promote access to justice, social cohesion and a fair and prosperous society.”
A spokesperson for The Bar of Northern Ireland told Irish Legal News: “The Bar of Northern Ireland welcomes the appointment of Claire Sugden MLA as Justice Minister and looks forward to engaging positively in the development of all aspects of justice policy.
“Minister Sugden will be tasked with making significant decisions relating to the justice system early in the new mandate, including immediate considerations around the implementation of the recommendations of the Access to Justice 2 Report and reforms in the Civil and Family Courts.
“The Bar will work closely with the Minister on these issues and in helping to promote an effective and efficient justice system across Northern Ireland.”