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Northern Ireland

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Politics and government of
Northern Ireland



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The First Minister and the deputy First Minister (Irish: Céad-Aire agus an leas-Chéad-Aire, Ulster Scots: Heid Männystèr an tha Heid Männystèr depute), abbreviated to FM/dFM[1], are positions in the Northern Ireland Executive with overall responsibility for the running of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in Northern Ireland.

The incumbents are Arlene Foster (acting) of the Democratic Unionist Party as First Minister and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin as deputy First Minister.

Contents

About

The two positions are a diarchy, meaning they have equal power.

The incumbent First Minister and deputy First Minister are Peter Robinson (Democratic Unionist Party) who has been temporarily replaced by Arlene Foster (Democratic Unionist Party) as Acting First Minister, and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) respectively,[2]

The former First Minister, Ian Paisley, stood down in May 2008.[3] This triggered the removal of Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister, although he remained in position in a caretaker capacity until being renominated with a new First Minister designate. On 17 April 2008 Peter Robinson was ratified as Democratic Unionist Party leader designate.[4] As leader-designate of the largest designated Unionist party in the Northern Ireland Assembly he was also in effect the First Minister designate and became First Minister on 5 June 2008.[5]

Responsibilities

The First Minister and deputy First Minister share their responsibilities with each other in a diarchy.

"Support for the Executive and liaison with the Assembly, the North-South Ministerial Council, British-Irish Council, Civic Forum and UK Departments; international relations; Programme for Government and the Executive’s economic policies; promoting and monitoring implementation of equality of opportunity/good relations, tackling poverty and social exclusion, children and young people, victims and survivors, sustainable development; Maze/Long Kesh Regeneration; Review of Public Administration; Information Service; emergency planning; improving investment in infrastructure and the Statutory Publications Office."[6]

Two Junior Ministers assist the First Minister and deputy First Minister in carrying out the work of OFMDFM. They are jointly accountable to the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The incumbent Junior Ministers are Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP) and Gerry Kelly (Sinn Féin).

Election

The First Minister elected by the Assembly on a joint ticket with the deputy First Minister. Their joint nomination has to obtain an overall majority in the Assembly along with a majority of both designated Nationalist MLAs and designated Unionist MLAs. The First Minister will be from the biggest designation in the Assembly and the deputy First Minister from the other designation. Designated Other MLAs also vote.

This diarchy was created to enable the leaders of the main unionist and nationalist parties to work together as a team jointly representing both communities.

Following the St Andrews Agreement, this was changed so that the Leader of the largest party nominated the First Minister, and the leader of the next largest party that is in the opposite designation nominated the deputy First Minister.

Pay

The salary for the two positions is £111,183[7] each (including MLA pay).

Terminology

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"Deputy" becomes "deputy"

Several weeks after Martin McGuinness took up office as deputy First Minister civil servants began asking the Assembly's Hansard team to drop the capital D for a lower case d. The reason was that the legislation setting up the job the Northern Ireland Act 1998 used a lower case d. It is believed by some however that the case was changed to highlight the fact that the position holds the same power as the position of First Minister, however a spokesman for Mr McGuinness said neither the deputy First Minister nor his advisers had asked for the change. The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William Hay, ordered the change and the capital D was dropped from Hansard references. The Office of the First and deputy First Minister continues to use both versions of Mr McGuinness' title on their website, their archive of press releases has been changed, but the capital D still appears in some places. And a spokesman confirmed on 20 March 2008 that the office has "no plans" to change the OFMDFM logo, it continues to read as "Office of the First and Deputy First Minister", however, the Assembly committee that scrutinises their work is now listed as the "Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister". Ultimately it was decided that Mr McGuinness should be the deputy First Minister, unless all the other letters in the title are in capitals. Confusion isn't completely resolved however; if Mr McGuinness writes to the Assembly committee that scrutinises his work, his note will have a letterhead that comes from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, but he'll get a reply back from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.[8]

"Joint First Minister"

Sinn Féin started using the phrase Joint First Minister in 2009 to describe the deputy First Minister to highlight the fact that the First Minister and deputy First Minister operated as a diarchy. Martin McGuinness recently used the term himself when he arrived for a meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council; the DUP denounced the term as "Republican Speak".[9] Jim Allister, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice has long been calling Robinson and McGuinness "the joint first ministers", to highlight the joint nature of the office and to demonstrate his opposition to the power-sharing arragements.[9] In the Assembly chamber David McClarty used the phrase but was corrected by William Hay the Speaker.[9]

"Co-First Minister"

Sinn Féin started using the phrase Co-First Minister in 2009 to describe the deputy First Minister to highlight the fact that the First Minister and deputy First Minister operated as a diarchy. On the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis website all references to the McGuinness are as "Co-First Minister Martin McGuinness". [10][11][9] The DUP denounced the term as "Republican Speak".[9]

History

Alex Salmond (right) meets Ian Paisley (centre) and Martin McGuinness (left) in 2008

Following a referendum on the Belfast Agreement on 23 May 1998 and subsequent the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Assembly was established in 1998 with a view to assuming devolved powers from the Westminster Parliament. On 1 July 1998 David Trimble (Ulster Unionist Party) and Seamus Mallon (Social Democratic and Labour Party) were nominated and elected First Minister and deputy First Minister designates respectively. Eventually, on 2 December 1999, power was devolved and Mr Trimble and Mr Mallon formally took office as joint heads of the Northern Ireland Executive.

On 6 November 2001 Mark Durkan (SDLP) became deputy First Minister after Seamus Mallon's retirement. On 8 May 2007 Ian Paisley (DUP) and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) were nominated and elected First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively in line with the announcement by their two parties on 26 March 2007. After Paisley stepped down Peter Robinson was elected as First Minister with Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister on 5 June 2008.

Between 12 February 2000 [12] and 30 May 2000[13], and 15 October 2002[14] and 8 May 2007[15], however, devolution was suspended, and along with it the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minster. The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister became the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. There were also two "technical" 24-hour periods of suspension on 11 August 2001 and 22 September 2001.[16][17][18][19][20]

First Ministers and deputy First Ministers

First Ministers

Minister Party Took office Left office
    David Trimble Ulster Unionist 2 December 1999 11 February 2000
Office suspended
    David Trimble Ulster Unionist 30 May 2000 30 June 2001
    Reg Empey (Acting) Ulster Unionist 1 July 2001 6 November 2001[21]
    David Trimble Ulster Unionist 6 November 2001 14 October 2002
Office suspended
    Ian Paisley Democratic Unionist 8 May 2007 5 June 2008
    Peter Robinson Democratic Unionist 5 June 2008 11 January 2010
    Arlene Foster (Acting) Democratic Unionist 11 January 2010 [21]

Deputy First Ministers

Minister Party Took office Left office
    Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour 2 December 1999 11 February 2000
Office suspended
    Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour 30 May 2000 6 November 2001[21]
    Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour 6 November 2001 14 October 2002
Office suspended
    Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin 8 May 2007

Direct rule ministers

During the periods of suspension, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland assumed the responsibilities of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

References

  1. ^ Northern Ireland Executive
  2. ^ http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/your-government/devolved-government.htm Northern Ireland Executive
  3. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7277886.stm BBC News
  4. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7353569.stm BBC News
  5. ^ http://www.u.tv UTV Live
  6. ^ http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/index/about-ofmdfm/ministers.htm OFMDFM
  7. ^ http://gmtv.teo.ie/pdf/stormont.pdf Belfast Telegraph
  8. ^ http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/martins-dlemma-lowering-the-case-of-the-ministers-title-took-top-aides-weeks-13395527.html Belfast Telegraph
  9. ^ a b c d e BBC News
  10. ^ Sinn Féin Ard Fheis
  11. ^ BBC News
  12. ^ Article 2, Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Commencement) Order 2000
  13. ^ Article 2, Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) Order 2000
  14. ^ Article 1, Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) Order 2002
  15. ^ BBC NEWS | UK | Northern Ireland | Historic return for NI Assembly
  16. ^ Entries under 10 August and 21 September 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2933947.stm
  17. ^ Article 1, Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) Order 2001
  18. ^ Article 2, Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) Order 2001
  19. ^ Article 1, Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) (No.2) Order 2001
  20. ^ Article 2, Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) (No.2) Order 2001
  21. ^ a b c Office suspended for 24 hours on 11 August 2001 and 22 September 2001

See also

External links


Simple English

First Minister and deputy First Minister
Céad-Aire agus leas-Chéad-Aire
Heid Männystèr an Heid Männystèr depute of {{{body}}}
Incumbent
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness

since 5 June 2008 (Robinson; suspended active role 11 January-3 February 2010), 8 May 2007 (McGuinness)
Appointer Northern Ireland Assembly
Term length While commanding the confidence of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Inaugural holder David Trimble and Seamus Mallon
Formation 2 December 1999
Website Website

The First Minister and the deputy First Minister (Irish: Céad-Aire agus an leas-Chéad-Aire, Ulster Scots: Heid Männystèr an tha Heid Männystèr depute)[1], (FM/dFM for short), are jobs in the Northern Ireland Government. The First Minister is not more important than the deputy First Minister. The two positions are a diarchy, meaning they have equal power; both are nominated and appointed by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The incumbents are Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party as First Minister and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin as deputy First Minister.[2]

Contents

Election

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are divided into two groups, Nationalists and Unionists (although there are also some independent or "Other" members).

The First Minister and the deputy First Minister are elected on a joint ticket. Under the St Andrews Agreement, the Leader of the largest party nominates the First Minister, and the leader of the next largest party that is in the other group nominates the deputy First Minister.

Their joint nomination has to obtain an overall majority in the Assembly along with a majority of both designated Nationalist MLAs and designated Unionist MLAs. Designated Other MLAs also vote.

This diarchy was created to enable the leaders of the main unionist and nationalist parties to work together as a team jointly representing both communities.

"Deputy" becomes "deputy"

The first two holders of the office now known as "deputy First Minister", namely Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan, were both referred to during their periods of office as "Deputy First Minister", with a capital D. This version was also adopted in 1999 for the logo of the OFMDFM.

Several weeks after Martin McGuinness took up office as Deputy First Minister in 2007, civil servants began asking the Assembly's Hansard team to replace the capital D with a lower-case d, deputy was spelled this way in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the legislation which created the office.

It was neither Mr McGuinness nor his advisers who asked for the change. The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William Hay, ordered the change and the capital D was dropped from Hansard references. The Office of the First and deputy First Minister still uses both versions of Mr McGuinness' title on their website, and their archive of press releases has been changed, but the capital D still appears in some places, and a spokesman confirmed on 20 March 2008 that the office has "no plans" to change the OFMDFM logo. However, the Assembly committee that looks at their work is now listed as the "Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister". It was decided that Mr McGuinness should be the deputy First Minister, unless all the other letters in the title are in capitals. Confusion isn't completely resolved however; if Mr McGuinness writes to the Assembly committee, his note will have a letterhead that comes from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, but he'll get a reply back from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.[3]

References

External links


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