Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Alliance parries Jim Allister criticism

TUV leader Jim Allister

An Alliance minister has insisted his party made no threats to throw Stormont into turmoil in order to keep its two Executive seats.

His remarks came during a clash at the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) committee where Stephen Farry was told: “You and your department were meant to be long gone by now.”

Jim Allister MLA told the committee which monitors DEL that the plan to abolish it — announced almost a year ago — had been “mere expediency”.

But Mr Farry defended Alliance holding two seats on the Executive while the UUP and SDLP — who each gained more votes at the last election — have only one apiece. The Justice Department is headed by Alliance leader David Ford.

Had Alliance walked out of the Executive, the d’Hondt procedure for allocating ministerial posts would have had to be rerun. It is likely parties would have been unable to agree on a replacement Justice Minister, causing chaos.

Mr Allister said people would be surprised Mr Farry was attending the committee after all the “grandstanding” by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over axing his department.

Mr Allister asked: “Are you going to tell us what threats Alliance made (to retain its two seats)?”

Mr Farry replied: “The Alliance Party did not make any threats.”

The minister said Alliance had been entitled to an Executive seat because of the votes it achieved at the last election. He added Mr Ford became Justice Minister as he was the only nominee attracting cross-community support.

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