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Ford offers to quit Justice Ministry in order to save post

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Justice Minister David Ford

Justice Minister David Ford

Justice Minister David Ford

David Ford has offered to quit his position as Justice Minister next year to ensure the Executive position survives.

It is understood the resignation offer was made in the Alliance Party’s submission to a Stormont committee yesterday.

Justice has been devolved to Stormont since April 2010, with Mr Ford elected by cross-community vote.

But the current compromise deal hammered out at Hillsborough Castle in early 2010 was temporary. If a longer-term solution is not found, it will expire in May next year.

Mr Ford has said he wants the current arrangement to continue but has offered to step down from his role to deflect any potential criticism that his party is motivated by self-interest.

The Alliance leader added he will face a motion of no confidence in the Assembly if necessary to help elect his successor.

Parties in the Assembly are divided over how to appoint a permanent minister to the department. The Assembly Executive and Review Committee is weighing up the options submitted by the parties and is due to meet next week.

Justice committee member Basil McCrea said Mr Ford’s offer to resign from the post was based more on self-interest than a necessity to rescue the devolution of policing and justice.

“It is clear that we have too many ministries, many of which are small with overlapping responsibilities,” he said.

“We should take the opportunity presented by the sunset clause surrounding the Ministry for Justice to reduce the number.”

Mr Ford has faced several significant challenges during his time as minister, including resolving a high-profile dispute over legal aid in which many solicitors refused to work due to changes in payments.

He also came under fire over controversies within the Prison Service.

background

Sinn Fein and the SDLP want the next Justice Minister to be selected in the same manner as other portfolios, using the d’Hondt method.

The DUP and Alliance want to continue with the current cross-community vote. But under certain conditions, the DUP would be prepared to use d’Hondt.

Belfast Telegraph