Belfast Telegraph

I would love to return to Executive as the Justice Minister, admits Sugden

Independent: Claire Sugden
Independent: Claire Sugden

By Noel McAdam

Claire Sugden has revealed she would again take up the position of Justice Minister if the Executive is restored.

The independent candidate said: "I would like to finish the job I started." Ms Sugden also said former First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness had let her down by creating the current Stormont crisis, with no guarantee the Executive will return in the near future.

But confirmation she would again accept the role removes one major obstacle to the formation of an Executive, since neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein would agree to the other holding the position.

Ms Sugden said: "I would not turn down an opportunity for my constituents to have a seat at the Executive table."

But she clashed with TUV leader Jim Allister, who accused her of intending to "prop up" ministers she had once referred to as "jokers".

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics show, Mr Allister told Ms Sugden that after the last Executive was formed "you told us the system was now fixed".

He said: "Your own testimony today tells how it failed and you can't keep on putting a sticking plaster across... a system that will not work."

Ms Sugden also rejected Mr Allister's proposal for UK ministers to be held to account by the Assembly if direct rule returns.

"It is not an idea that is going to work, the problems we have in Northern Ireland is because we have had direct rule for so long," she said. "The UK doesn't want NI to go back into direct rule, it is probably the last thing on their agenda."

Meanwhile, the Conservatives' historic win in the Copeland by-election in Cumbria could help trigger a breakthrough in this week's Assembly election, the party has forecast.

The Tories stopped short of predicting their first Assembly seat, but calculated they should "significantly increase" their vote share after historically taking an English constituency which has returned Labour candidates for 80 years.

NI Conservatives' chairman Alan Dunlop said: "Our stunning success in Cumbria is the result of our remarkable record competently and effectively managing the UK Government, economy and public services over the last seven years."

As the party also launched its manifesto, parliamentary private secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, Craig Whittaker MP, added: "After many years of unreliable leadership in Stormont, it is time for change in Northern Ireland.

"However, the only way to achieve change is if people vote for it."

And East Belfast candidate Sheila Bodel claimed: "Many voters are telling us that they will be voting for the Conservatives as their first preference for the first time."

The party also pointed to Scotland last year, where it surpassed Labour as the second largest party after the year before in the general election becoming the only party to increase its number of seats in Wales.

Belfast Telegraph

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