SF-DUP coalition to go ahead after justice ministry deal

A new power-sharing executive will be formed in Northern Ireland after an independent Assembly member agreed to fill the contentious justice ministry. East Derry MLA Claire Sugden has been unveiled as the agreed Democratic Unionist and Sinn Féin candidate.

The move ends any uncertainty over whether a new coalition would be formed in Belfast.

The other ministries will be shared out between the DUP and Sinn Féin during an Assembly sitting later on Wednesday.

With the Ulster Unionists and SDLP having opted to form an official opposition and the Alliance Party also deciding not to re-enter the power-sharing executive in the wake of the Assembly election, the DUP and Sinn Féin had faced somewhat of a quandary as to who would be justice minister.

Both parties previously vetoed the other taking the job, instead relying on the cross-community Alliance Party to fill the post.

Without a justice minister an executive would not have been formed and another election would have been likely.

Ms Sugden’s elevation from the opposition benches has avoided that scenario.

DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness flanked the 29-year-old in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings in Belfast as her appointment was confirmed.

Ms Sugden, the daughter of a former prison officer, said the job represented a “huge challenge” but she was “up for it”.

“This is probably the most difficult decision I have had in my life,” she said.

“It did cause me a lot of anxiety over this last week but it is an opportunity for me, for my constituency and most importantly it’s an opportunity for Northern Ireland.

“And I am looking forward to it.”

The rest of the posts were allocated using the D’Hondt formula.

The DUP had first pick and selected Simon Hamilton as economy minister.

Sinn Féin then selected Mairtin O’Muilleoir as finance minister.

The DUP nominated Peter Weir as education minister and Sinn Féin announced Chris Hazzard as the minister for infrastructure.

The DUP took the department of agriculture, environment and rural affairs with Michelle McIlveen as minister.

The Democratic Unionist Party also took the communities department, with Paul Givan.

In the last ministry selected, Sinn Féin took health, appointing Michelle O’Neill.


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