NI: Deadlock over Justice Minister appointment continues

 Alliance leader David Ford
Alliance leader David Ford

The appointment of Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister has developed into a major political issue after the Alliance Party indicated that it would not nominate someone for the position.

Alliance leader David Ford had held the post from its creation in 2010 until the Assembly dissolved this year.

It was widely speculated before this month’s election that Mr Ford’s party colleague Stephen Farry would take over the position in the new Executive.

However, over 120 delegates at a special Alliance party meeting last night endorsed the leadership’s position that it would not nominate someone to the role without the DUP and Sinn Féin accepting certain proposals from the Alliance manifesto.

Deputy leader Naomi Long said: “Members endorsed the proposals which we submitted to DUP and Sinn Fein which they recognised would have radically changed Northern Ireland in terms of governance, building an integrated society, strengthening our economy, dealing with the costs of division and crucially addressing legacy issues and paramilitarism to allow our community to move forward.

“Given the DUP and Sinn Fein response to those proposals, the view of leadership was that we could not recommend an Alliance MLA to take the Justice Minister role, and that view was endorsed this evening.

“Whether in government or in opposition, we will not be deflected from delivering ambitious change for our community and it is clear that Alliance is energised about progressing that agenda.”

Claire Sugden, the independent unionist MLA for East Londonderry, has been named by the Belfast Telegraph as a prospective candidate with cross-community support.

Green deputy leader Clare Bailey
Green deputy leader Clare Bailey

As the situation developed yesterday afternoon, two MLAs belonging to the Green Party in Northern Ireland were invited to meet with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Green leader Steven Agnew said it was a “worthwhile and constructive meeting” during which they raised issues like integrated education and early years provision.

However, he said they would need “more progress on our issues before we could recommend going into government to our party members”.

Green deputy leader Clare Bailey said afterwards: “Given that our justice system currently upholds discrimination in many areas, to take up the role as it is would be problematic.

“We would need to advancement in abortion reform and marriage equality as a starting point.”

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