The Justice Minister has warned that he may not stand for the position again if it is not guaranteed adequate protection until the next Assembly election.
Alliance Party leader David Ford (pictured) was responding to proposals that the Department for Employment and Learning, a ministry held by his party colleague Stephen Farry, be abolished and that he be reappointed as Justice Minister on a cross-community vote.
Mr Ford is fearful that if DEL is dissolved he could be removed from Justice later. He wants a guarantee that whoever takes the post can keep it until the next election. "I don't do huffs, but certainly there is a real chance that if we don't get the structures right which provide the protection there will not be an Alliance Justice Minister when they change the pattern of ministers," said Mr Ford.
He listed three issues which he said had been "conflated together in a way which is unhelpful to their proper resolution".
"The first is the issue of how the Justice Minister is appointed and their security of tenure. It is clear there is insufficient confidence to leave this ministry as a pick in d'Hondt and so a cross-community vote will still be required; however, there's also a need to ensure the tenure of the Justice Minister is consistent with other ministers," he argued.
"As a result of the appointment mechanism, there is a second issue in that any party which provides the Justice Minister will be over-represented in the Executive. We have put forward a proposal which acknowledges the need for cross-community support, but also addresses the issue of proportionality in the Executive," he added.
"The third issue is that of reform of the number of departments."