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Parties sharpen knives for best deals in ministerial carve-up

By Liam Clarke

Published 08/06/2012

Alliance has two ministries, although its voting strength entitles it merely to one.

Other parties want to cut it down to size and are currently feeling Alliance's bumps to see how far they can push it.

The Big Two need David Ford in Justice - the Alliance leader was the only person who could command cross-community support and if he walks there would be a problem.

Stephen Farry in the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) is another matter and before the Assembly rises in July legislation is planned to abolish his department.

Alliance has formulated a price. First, it wants legislation guaranteeing that Ford keeps his job until the next election.

At present, cross-community support could simply be withdrawn if he annoys the other parties. Ford wants the same freedom in his ministerial silo as other ministers, who can only be removed by their party leaders.

The second part of the price is that most of DEL should be transferred to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and not the Department of Education, as many expected.

Since DETI is in DUP hands and Education with Sinn Fein, this precludes a neat carve-up between the two parties.

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