Independent Unionist Claire Sugden (29) has been named as Northern Ireland's new Justice Minister. She is a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) at Stormont for East Londonderry and her appointment was agreed between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin.
A former Lord Mayor of Belfast and a fluent speaker of the Irish language, he has been a Stormont MLA since 2014. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Westminster parliament in Belfast South in the United Kingdom general election of 2015.
As a result of his appointment, Mr. Ó Muilleoir will be stepping aside from his role as publisher of the Irish Echo, the newspaper announced.
Apart from Claire Sugden in the Justice Minister's post, the other ministerial posts in the power-sharing Executive are all divided up between the DUP and Sinn Féin.
This follows the decision by the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) to go into opposition following the recent Assembly elections where the two parties did not perform as well as they had hoped.
David Ford of the cross-community Alliance Party held the Justice Minister's post in the last Executive and there was speculation that the party might hold onto the the job. However, Alliance was dissatisfied with the response of the DUP and Sinn Féin to proposals on "legacy issues" relating to the Troubles as well as other matters and the party withdrew from negotiations on the justice ministry.
It would have been politically impossible for the DUP or Sinn Féin to appoint one of their own MLA's and Ms Sugden emerged as the compromise candidate.
Unveiling new justice minister Claire Sugden, Martin McGuinness twice says she is "progressive" pic.twitter.com/znVFoomwgo— Sam McBride (@SJAMcBride) May 25, 2016
Whoever is nominated to be Justice Minister requires the support of a majority of unionists and nationalists in the Assembly in order to be appointed. Failure to agree on filling the position between the DUP and Sinn Féin would have precipitated another general election to the Assembly.
Ministerial posts are allocated under the D'Hondt formula whereby portfolios are divided between parties in proportion to their strength in the Assembly.
The DUP, with 38 out of a total 108 MLAs, had first choice and picked Simon Hamilton for the position of Economy Minister. Sinn Féin, with 28 MLAs, then chose Máirtín Ó Muilleoir as Finance Minister.
The DUP named Peter Weir as Education Minister, the first unionist to hold this position in the power-sharing Executive. Sinn Féin announced South Down MLA Chris Hazzard (31) as Minister for Infrastructure – this department was formerly titled Regional Development.
Hazzard joined Sinn Féin as a teenager because of his "passionate hostility to the injustices of rampant capitalism and the greed of egocentric politicians" and was co-opted to the Assembly in 2012. He is currently completing a Ph.D. in International Studies and Political Philosophy at Queen's University Belfast and is also very much involved locally in the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has been appointed minister for infrastructure. pic.twitter.com/I3Bn6dyjOv— BBC News NI (@BBCNewsNI) May 25, 2016
The DUP's Michelle McIlveen becomes Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the same party's Paul Givan, MLA for Lagan Valley, takes over as Communities Minister.
Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill is to be Minister for Health; she was previously Agriculture Minister. There are two junior ministers: the DUP's Alastair Ross and Sinn Féin's Megan Fearon. Aged 24 years, Ms Fearon comes from the republican heartland of South Armagh and has taken a degree at Queen's University Belfast in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She was co-opted to the Assembly in 2012.
The power-sharing Executive was set up under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 which aimed to rule out the possibility of either unionist or nationalist political domination in Northern Ireland.
My new Ministerial team. pic.twitter.com/cBp2CnGclF— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) May 25, 2016
The following senior ministers were not re-appointed: Jonathan Bell, Mervyn Storey and Lord Morrow from the DUP, and Sinn Féin's Caral Ní Chuilin and John O'Dowd
Claire Sugden was accompanied by DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont as her appointment was announced.
Daughter of a former prison officer, she said she was looking forward to the job: “It did cause me a lot of anxiety over this last week but it is an opportunity for me, for my constituency and most importantly it’s an opportunity for Northern Ireland."
First Minister Foster said: “Martin and I are delighted that Claire has agreed to be the new Justice Minister in the new mandate and we are very much looking forward to working with her.” she said.
Deputy First Minister McGuinness said: “I am equally as delighted as Arlene that Claire has agreed to take up this onerous responsibility, this very challenging position, but we have every confidence in her ability.”
The new Northern Ireland executive must be the youngest cabinet in the world.— Eoin O'Malley (@AnMailleach) May 25, 2016