Belfast Telegraph

Powers of Northern Ireland Attorney General could be altered

BY LIAM CLARKE

The Executive is considering changes to the powers of John Larkin, the Northern Ireland Attorney General, following a report of a senior Scottish lawyer.

It highlights possible conflicts between the Attorney General's role as a government legal adviser and his independent role to "protect the public interest in matters of law".

Yesterday at Stormont Peter Robinson, the First Minister, said he and Martin McGuinness had been studying the report from Dame Elish Angiolini, Lord Advocate of Scotland until 2011, for a year.

Alex Attwood, of the SDLP, asked if the role given to the Attorney General in 2010, when he was appointed, was "too generous".

Mr Robinson replied "the member puts his finger on one of the key issues".

"There is the difficulty with, at one and the same time, being the adviser to the Executive and the other hand having a role independently. His independent role has on occasion required him (the Attorney General) to act taking action against the Executive."

The First Minister added that this "clearly is one of the issues that Dame Eilish has looked at, which we are looking at and which will form part of any proposals that we bring to the Executive".

Asked if he and Mr McGuinness would reappoint or replace Mr Larkin when his contract expires next year Mr Robinson relied: "I think we have a fairly settled view.

"But we have procedures to go through before an outcome is announced."

He also signalled that Mr Justice Treacy's finding that the issue of the gay blood donor ban should have been considered by the whole Executive, not Mr Poots alone, could mean that "literally everything would come to the Executive."

"It would be a very considerable burden on the Executive if we were to go down that route."

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