News Irish News

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Sinn Fein and DUP to hold talks over new ministries

Michael McHugh and Steven McCaffery

Northern Ireland's two largest parties meet today to discuss the make-up of the new Executive.

Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness are expected to consider the appointment of a new justice minister as part of talks about the allocation of ministries, which is based on the number of Assembly seats won.

The DUP topped Thursday's poll, winning 38 seats, while Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist party on 29. The cross-community Alliance Party is expected to fill the justice minister's position under an agreement on policing and justice reached between the DUP and Sinn Fein during the last mandate.

The Alliance Party could be entitled to another executive seat after it increased its poll tally.

But the Ulster Unionists are expected to encourage re-elected independent former member David McClarty to return to the party, giving it enough Assembly strength to take the ministry from Alliance.

Stormont will sit on Thursday or Monday when ministerial portfolios will be chosen.

Mr McClarty refused to say what he planned to do next.

"I am elated at having achieved the victory, I will take time to enjoy the experience. At this stage I am not about to make any decisions whatsoever and I will take a day or two so that I can recover from the exertions of the campaign," he said.

The East Derry MLA, who left at Christmas following a dispute with his UUP local branch, said he would not endorse comments made by Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott, who branded Sinn Fein "scum" during an outburst at the Fermanagh and South Tyrone count.

Mr McGuinness said Mr Elliott had criticised a DUP and Sinn Fein carve-up in the last mandate but this was no way for the UUP to build bridges.

Mr Robinson dedicated his poll-topping performance to Catholic PSNI constable Ronan Kerr (25), killed after a booby-trap bomb planted by dissident republicans exploded underneath his car in Omagh, Co Tyrone, last month.

"I want to dedicate this victory to the memory of Ronan Kerr, a young man who at 25 years of age was blown into eternity by the hands of evil men," Mr Robinson said.


"But he had a vision for Northern Ireland and he wanted to serve his community.

"And in the words of his mother, she wanted to ensure that people would come out and support the way forward, peacefully, in Northern Ireland to have a united community, a shared society, that they might go forward with real opportunity and real hope.

"I therefore not only dedicate the victory to Ronan but dedicate myself to the vision that he had," he added.

He pledged to use his party's best Assembly election result to build a shared future for all in memory of the officer.

Mr McGuinness also committed his party to working in partnership at Stormont.

But while Sinn Fein claimed an extra seat, the Ulster Unionists and the nationalist SDLP both lost two Assembly spots, while Alliance gained a seat.

Each of the 18 constituencies returned six Assembly members and after two long days of counts, the battle for the last seat proved crucial in determining the final make-up of the new Stormont administration.

In the end the DUP took 38 seats, Sinn Fein 29, UUP 16, SDLP 14 and Alliance eight.

The leader of the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) Jim Allister took a seat in North Antrim after the ninth count and without reaching the quota.

He pledged to hound Sinn Fein and challenge the power-sharing government from within the Assembly.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News