Belfast Telegraph

Alliance Party reveals 'wish list' conditions over justice ministry

The Alliance Party has told Stormont's leaders they must deliver on a five-point wish list if they want it to re-take the powersharing executive's contentious justice ministry.

Alliance leader David Ford presented the demands to the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein during post-election talks on the formation of a new coalition administration.

"We will wait to see what response we receive from the DUP and Sinn Fein and what further discussions there might be," he said.

The party's decision on whether to accept the DUP/Sinn Fein offer to again take on a post it has filled since 2010 has become crucial to the viability of the next executive.

If the cross-community party declines, Stormont will be facing another crisis, just weeks after the Assembly election, as neither the DUP or Sinn Fein are likely to allow the other to assume the politically sensitive portfolio.

That mutual veto has been overcome in recent years by the willingness of Alliance to take the job.

Mr Ford made clear his party will only fulfil the role again if it achieves progress on five key policy issues - building an integrated society; funding of services, not division; "cleaning up" of politics; investment in jobs, skills and economy; and ending all forms of paramilitarism.

He and party colleagues have drawn up a three-page document for DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and are now awaiting their response.

While the DUP and Sinn Fein have until next Wednesday to form a new administration - something that will be impossible without a justice minister - Alliance wants to see progress before Thursday evening, when its ruling council is due to meet to discuss the issue.

If Alliance was to take the ministry, it would only remain in the post if certain timelines for delivery of its requests are met by the main parties.

"What we will be putting forward will require specific targets to be reached and commitments to be made and delivery by certain dates," said Mr Ford.

"If that delivery is not made then an Alliance minister will not remain in post, if there is an Alliance minister in post at all."

Unlike most ministerial jobs in the administration, the justice minister can only be appointed with the backing of both a majority of nationalist and a majority of unionist MLAs.

Mrs Foster has already made clear her party would not consent to Sinn Fein taking the post.

Given the DUP leader's stance, her republican partners in government are highly unlikely to support a DUP incumbent.

If Alliance follows the lead already taken by the Ulster Unionists and refuses to join the new administration, then the two main parties will have to find another agreed minister - or else an executive cannot be formed.

While the SDLP also remains in negotiations to form an executive, it is unlikely both the DUP and Sinn Fein would support the nationalist party taking on justice.

In that context, the Green Party - which has two seats in the 108-seat legislature - has been mooted as a potential alternative.

Earlier on Tuesday, Green party leader Steven Agnew did not rule himself out as a potential minister.

However, he said significant changes would be required on the proposed DUP/Sinn Fein programme for government, with more emphasis on eco-friendly investment policies and integrated education, before he could contemplate joining the Stormont Executive.

"I saw parties in the last mandate have positions in government but no positions of power," he said when asked if he would consider taking the post if offered.

"I would go in to assess whether or not I would have any power, any say in the decision-making, and it would be on that basis I would make any decision."

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