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First and Deputy First Ministers used royal powers on two other occasions before spin doctor appointment

The Royal Prerogative has been used on three occasions by Northern Ireland’s First and deputy First Ministers since May 2007, it has been revealed.

The details emerged in a response to a written question submitted by Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt.

He made the enquiry following the revelation that First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness used the Royal Prerogative to appoint BBC journalist David Gordon as Stormont’s new £75,000-a-year Press Secretary.

He takes up his position until next month.

The decision by Northern Ireland’s leaders to use the special legal powers is now to be probed by an Assembly committee.

The Executive has confirmed the Prerogative powers were used on two other occasions.

“The other occasions were the Commissioner for Public Appointments (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2008, and the Commissioner for Public Appointments (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2010,” a written answer from the Executive Office stated.

Both orders were signed by then First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

More: McGuinness attacked over use of powers to employ Stormont spin doctor 

The role of Commissioner for Public Appointments was created in 1995, in response to the first report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Its remit is to provide guidance for Stormont departments on procedures for making public appointments; to audit those procedures and report on them annually and to investigate complaints about appointment processes.

Commenting on the information released on Wednesday, Mr Nesbitt said: “In addition to the use of the Royal Prerogative to appoint the new Executive Press Secretary, the power has been exercised by the First and deputy First Ministers on two further occasions since May 2007.

“We have the bizarre situation where Martin McGuinness, someone who would style himself as a ‘principled republican’, has now exercised the powers of a monarch on three occasions. 

“One would have to question what other ‘principled republicans’, like Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers, who spent so long at Her Majesty’s pleasure, would make of it all.”

Mr McGuinness has previously dismissed criticism from opposition parties, adding he felt “absolutely grand” using royal powers to facilitate Mr Gordon’s appointment.

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