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Trimmer Stormont plan is rapped

By Noel McAdam

Stormont's two biggest parties have attacked SDLP plans to slim down the First Minister’s Office — including axing both junior minister jobs — and the Assembly.

Launching its manifesto yesterday, the party said eight special advisers employed by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are “excessive”.

Party leader Margaret Ritchie called for overall staff levels in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (who should in future, it said, be |called joint First Ministers) to be consciously reduced. Some functions, including community relations, urban regeneration and the former MoD sites should also be transferred elsewhere.

The posts of junior ministers should be “abolished immediately” the document added, as part of a shake-up which would also reduce the current 108 MLAs to 96, with further possible reductions after 2015.

Sinn Fein Upper Bann candidate John O'Dowd hit back: “Margaret Ritchie seems to once again want to rewrite history.

“When the SDLP were in OFMDFM, far from wanting to abolish the junior ministries, they proposed doubling their numbers.”

A DUP statement said the party had supported previous SDLP leader Mark Durkan’s demand for the eventual removal of the “ugly scaffolding” of the Stormont institutions and Ms Ritchie should “follow through with action”.

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