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New Assembly convenes to reappoint Robinson and McGuinness

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are reappointed at the first meeting of the new Stormont Assembly.

Image: stevelavo via Flickr

Updated, 15.12

THE 108 MEMBERS of the new Stormont Assembly are meeting for the first time in Belfast this afternoon, to appoint a new First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

The meeting has returned the Democratic Unionist Party’s Peter Robinson to the office of First Minister, with Sinn Féin’s assembly leader Martin McGuinness appointed as Deputy First Minister.

Those appointments are in line with the status of the two parties as the largest from the unionist and nationalist communities; the largest party represented in the Assembly is entitled to the former office, while the largest of the opposition tradition is given the latter.

The two offices are equal in stature, despite their names, and work from the same governmental office.

The makeup of the assembly is largely unchanged from before its election, with only 13 of the 108 seats changing hands in last week’s Assembly Elections.

The DUP retained its status as the largest party, with 38 seats (up by two), while Sinn Féin won two seats to stand at 29.

Outgoing Speaker William Hay, of the DUP, was earlier returned unopposed at the Speaker of the new house – but McGuinness said he and Robinson had agreed for the position to be rotated and given to Sinn Féin in 2014.

That arrangement was condemned by by the Traditional Unionist Voice assemblyman Jim Allister, who condemned Robinson for agreeing to have a “Sinn Féin-IRA” member as Speaker in three years’ time.

The appointment of members to the province’s power-sharing executive is expected next week. Of the ten seats to be filled, the DUP will be given four seats and Sinn Féin three.

The Alliance Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, and the Ulster Unionist Party will all be entitled to one seat each.

Attempts by the UUP to win a second seat by recruiting an independent MLA back into its ranks proved unsuccessful; if it had done so, the UUP would have been entitled to two ministries.

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Gavan Reilly

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