Republican Martin McGuinness has used Royal Prerogative on three occasions
Martin McGuinness has exercised royal powers on three occasions in his time at the head of Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, an Assembly question has revealed.
Rival politicians questioned the republican credentials of the Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister and former IRA commander when it emerged last week that he and First Minister Arlene Foster exercised the Royal Prerogative to change employment laws to appoint a new press secretary without an open competition.
Now Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness's department - The Executive Office - has acknowledged there have been two other occasions when the nine-year DUP/Sinn Fein coalition invoked monarchical power to change a law without recourse to the Assembly.
The information was outlined in response to an Assembly question tabled by Mike Nesbitt, the leader of Stormont's main Opposition party, the Ulster Unionists.
"In addition to the use of the Royal Prerogative to appoint the new Executive press secretary, the power has been exercised by the First and Deputy First Ministers on two further occasions since May 2007," said Mr Nesbitt.
"We have the bizarre situation where Martin McGuinness, someone who would style himself as a 'principled Republican', has now exercised the powers of a monarch on three occasions.
"One would have to question what other 'principled Republicans', like Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers, who spent so long at Her Majesty's pleasure, would make of it all."
Last week Mr McGuinness said he felt "absolutely grand" using royal powers.
"Anything that benefits the working of the Executive and, by extension, enriches the lives of the people we represent, is a good thing," he told the Assembly.
"I have done many things over the course of the last 20 years, none of which I am ashamed of whatsoever because I think my contribution to this process has put us all where we are today."
In response to Mr Nesbitt's written question, Mr McGuinness and Mrs Foster said: "Since May 2007 the Prerogative powers have been used by a First Minister and Deputy First Minister on three occasions, including the order used to appoint the new Executive press secretary.
"The other occasions were the Commissioner for Public Appointments (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2008, and the Commissioner for Public Appointments (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2010."
Responding to Mr Nesbitt's remarks, Mr McGuinness said: "What really concerns Mike is that we were given a mandate to govern and he wasn't.
"As for his concerns about by Republican credentials, it runs off me like water off a duck's back.
"The prerogative powers have been used on a number of occasions, in fact the precedent was established in 2001 by UUP leader, David Trimble, and Seamus Mallon, SDLP."