Belfast Telegraph

First minister 'should be unionist'

Northern Ireland's next first minister should be a unionist, Peter Robinson has declared.

The Democratic Unionist leader was responding to the prospect of Sinn Fein becoming the largest party in the next Assembly and naming Martin McGuinness as first minister.

Outlining the party's proposals for Stormont reforms in Belfast, he said: "The mechanism to appoint the first minister and deputy first minister, as agreed at St Andrews, was not faithfully implemented in the ensuing legislation.

"Pending more fundamental changes to the operation of OFMDFM (Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister) we will continue to press to have the agreed arrangements implemented as per the St Andrews Agreement, namely that the nominee of the largest party from the largest designation should become first minister."

The DUP hopes to become the largest unionist party after the election. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said the posts of first minister and deputy first minister could be shared in the form of joint ministers if his party tops the poll.

Mr Robinson has refused to contemplate publicly anything but a DUP victory. The East Belfast candidate said an official opposition and voluntary coalition would help Northern Ireland politicians work together. Weighted majority voting of around 65% and an end to allowing community background as the decisive factor would normalise democracy in Northern Ireland, Mr Robinson added.

"We believe that in the long term, the best means of governing Northern Ireland would involve a voluntary coalition executive and weighted majority voting of around 65% in the Assembly, resulting in an end to community designation," he said.

"This system could provide for both an executive and an official loyal opposition outside of government instead of a disloyal opposition within government. This would be consistent with normal democratic institutions while respecting the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland."

He said there was an emerging consensus for change to the current structures.

"It will require widespread agreement to bring about change in the devolved arrangements. We believe that with some good will, changes can be made which are to the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

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