Unionists take full control of Six County justice department
Unionists take full control of Six County justice department


Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has been accused of handing unionism a “triple lock” on justice after nationalists were sidelined in the administration and scrutiny of the department’s functions.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the appointment of independent unionist Claire Sugden (pictured, centre) as justice minister and the subsequent choice of two DUP Assembly members to head the corresponding committee represented a “roll over on power-sharing in a critical department”.

The move follows the DUP’s reported insistence that they would not accept a justice minister who is a nationalist.

Mr Eastwood said the three unionist appointments would now have serious consequences for the nationalist community, and conceding control of the justice ministry and committee at the outset did not “bode well for the next five years”.

“Martin may well claim to be in control but today’s events once again show that because of Sinn Fein’s weakness the DUP call the shots,” he said.

“Sinn Fein have failed at the first hurdle to stand up for the cross-community protections enshrined by D’Hondt. That alone should dictate the allocation of Justice Minister. But together with the DUP, Sinn Fein have allowed the corruption of this process - it happened once before and today we see it happening again.

“It is clear that under this Executive, this is a position for which no Nationalist need apply.”

But Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy said the SDLP leader’s comments were “rich coming from a so-called nationalist party who expressed no interest in the department of justice” after the party went into opposition.

“We are in control of finance, health, and infrastructure and Martin McGuinness is a co-equal first minister - the SDLP are not even in control of opposition,” he said.

“We will not take any lectures from a party which has walked away from its responsibilities and which is making no positive contribution.”

DUP First Minister Arlene Foster joined Martin McGuinness to present Ms Sugden in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings in Belfast as her appointment was confirmed.

The daughter of a former prison warder, the new justice minister said the job represented a “huge challenge” but she was “up for it”.

Mrs Foster claimed the independent MLA would be a minister for “all the people” in the north, while Mr McGuinness described Ms Sugden as “impressive and progressive”.

Martin McGuinness also announced the promotion of three young assembly members as Ministers, while demoting former education minister John O’Dowd, former culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin and former junior minister Jennifer McCann. There was also surprise that there was no place in the Executive for former minister for regional development, Conor Murphy, once thought a potential successor to McGuinness.

The Stormont executive as it stands currently:

First Minister - Arlene Foster (DUP)
Deputy First Minister - Martin McGuinness (SF)
Minister for the Economy - Simon Hamilton (DUP)
Minister for Finance - Mairtin O Muilleoir (SF)
Minister for Education - Peter Weir (DUP)
Minister for Infrastructure - Chris Hazzard (SF)
Minister for Communities - Paul Givan (DUP)
Minister for Agriculture & Environment - Michelle McIlveen (DUP)
Minister for Health - Michelle O’Neill (SF)

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© 2016 Irish Republican News