17 November 2006

Ulster parties to nominate first minister and deputy


16/11/2006 - 15:20:26

The British government wants the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin to indicate next week who will be their choice for first and deputy first ministers at Stormont if efforts to revive power sharing are to remain on course.

Following the publication of the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill, it became clear DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness will not be appointed first and deputy first ministers or have to take a pledge of office.

Instead, the parties will have to declare at the first meeting of a new Transitional Assembly tomorrow week who they intend to nominate to the top posts in the Executive once devolution is restored on March 26.

A Stormont source said: "The DUP will probably say Ian Paisley will be our nominee for first minister in the event of Sinn Féin delivering on its commitment to policing by March 26.

"Sinn Féin will say Martin McGuinness would be their preferred choice."

The Bill also revealed that the Transitional Assembly would be dissolved on January 30 to enable fresh Stormont elections on March 7 ahead of the planned date for restoring power sharing on March 26.

The emergency legislation is being rushed through Parliament over the next week.

It also covers plans to possibly reconstitute District Policing Partnerships in the event of devolution, delay a ban on academic selection and hold out the possibility of Assembly members taking the final decision, and also force MLAs to report back to the Government on March 27 2008 on plans to transfer policing and justice powers from Westminster.

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