Northern Ireland is set to see new DUP faces either at Westminster or in the Assembly after the party leader Peter Robinson announced an end to the controversial double-jobbing practice.
He made it clear all the DUP’s MPs will have to choose between Parliament and Parliament Buildings by the time of the next General Election.
Mr Robinson said he intended to announce changes to the Executive and Assembly team before the summer recess “so that no more than one of my seven parliamentary colleagues who presently hold either a Ministerial position or Committee Chairmanship will continue to do so”.
The DUP has nine MPs: Mr Robinson, his wife Iris, deputy leader Nigel Dodds, former leader Ian Paisley, Willie McCrea, Gregory Campbell, Sammy Wilson, David Simpson and Jeffrey Donaldson.
All sit in the Assembly, while Mr Robinson, Mr Dodds, Mr Campbell, Mr Wilson and Mr Donaldson all hold ministerial office.
In a speech in Bangor, he added: “This move is being done with their full agreement. The new team of Ministers and Committee Chairs will be briefed over the summer and be in place before the beginning of the Autumn term.”
The First Minister also made clear: “It is not for me to decide whether colleagues choose Westminster or the Assembly. We will each announce our own decisions in the coming months after we consult with our constituency associations.”
Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the announcement showed the DUP is in “headlong retreat” over the issue having defended double-jobbing just weeks ago and voted against moves to end the practice. Speaking after Conservative leader David Cameron pledged to end double-jobbing, in an exclusive article for the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Sir Reg argued: “It is common knowledge that his party has been getting it in the neck on the doorsteps at the excesses of multiple jobs and Parliamentary allowances. He has been forced to accept that the game is up.”
And former UU chief whip David McNarry argued: “David Cameron said that if they would not move to give up double-jobbing, he would bring in legislation to outlaw it. So it comes as no surprise that this evening First Minister Peter Robinson has announced this in a clear-cut case of jumping before they were pushed.”
Mr Robinson, however, insisted double-jobbing was never intended to be a long-term arrangement but was a necessary step to allow the institutions to “bed down securely” and to allow a new cadre of leadership to develop. “I have no doubt that at a time when the future of the Assembly was uncertain and when experienced leadership was required, it made sense for some of the representatives from the main parties to be both MPs and MLAs.”