Alliance refusal to take up justice post 'could trigger fresh election'
Stormont could be facing major problems if the Alliance Party does not take up the offer of filling the justice ministry, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has warned.
The Sinn Fein veteran acknowledged the speculation that an Alliance refusal to resume a job it has performed for six years could trigger another Assembly election — just weeks after the last poll.
“I hope we can avoid that because to have a further election is to effectively have the same configuration of parties and number of seats coming back here,” he said.
Alliance does not have the electoral strength to take a ministerial seat in the power-sharing coalition by right, but it has again been offered the politically sensitive justice portfolio because the two leading parties — the DUP and Sinn Fein — do not want each other to have the job.
Since the devolution of justice powers to Belfast in 2010, that mutual veto has been overcome due to the fact both main parties were content for the Alliance Party to take the job.
But in the wake of this month’s Assembly election, Alliance has made it clear it will only re-take the post if the DUP and Sinn Fein agree to implement a series of policy demands around issues like tackling segregation and combating paramilitarism.
Negotiations between the parties are ongoing ahead of a deadline for forming a government next Wednesday. A crunch meeting is scheduled for today, when Alliance’s wish list will be discussed. Mr McGuinness said he hoped ministries would be allocated and a government formed next week.
The SDLP, which is eligible for one ministerial post by right, also remains in negotiations to form the executive, but it is unlikely both the DUP and Sinn Fein would support the nationalist party taking on the justice job.
Mr McGuinness said he remained hopeful an administration would be formed that included both the SDLP and Alliance.