Belfast Telegraph

Simon Hamilton: I am ready for new role as Finance Minister

Stormont's new finance minister has insisted he has the experience to take on one of the most high-profile jobs in the Northern Ireland Executive.

At 36, Democratic Unionist Strangford MLA Simon Hamilton has become one of youngest members of the power-sharing coalition after replacing DUP veteran Sammy Wilson in the post.

The father-of-two from Comber, Co Down, who was first elected to the Assembly six years ago, was announced by the DUP as its future finance minister in waiting in 2011 and had been serving as Mr Wilson's private secretary in the period since.

After Stormont First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson confirmed his appointment today, Mr Hamilton was he was confident he was well prepared to succeed Mr Wilson.

"I think I am ready for this," he said outside Parliament Buildings in Belfast.

"I have had two years to prepare for this. I've been able to learn a lot from Sammy and observe very closely working alongside him how the system operates, who the people are within the system, and what the issues are, and I am very much ready for the challenges that remain ahead."

Mr Hamilton and Mr Robinson both hailed the work of Mr Wilson in his time as finance minister.

While the East Antrim MP and MLA will now take a seat on the Assembly's backbenches, in two years time he will have to choose between Westminster and Stormont, when a law comes into force banning politicians from sitting in both legislatures.

Mr Robinson said if his long time friend and colleague opted to focus on the institutions in Belfast he would become a "high priority" when the DUP came to filling ministerial portfolios in the future.

"As a former finance minister, I appreciate more than most the challenges and magnitude of the job," said Mr Robinson.

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