First Minister and deputy First Minister


First Minister and deputy First Minister
First Minister and deputy First Minister
Incumbent
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness

since 5 June 2008 and 8 May 2007 (respectively)
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
Salary £111,183 each (inc. MLA pay)[1]
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, First Meinister an First Meinister depute[2], First Meenister an First Meenister depute[3] or First Minister an First Minister depute[4]), sometimes abbreviated to FM/dFM,[5] 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 two positions are a diarchy, meaning they have equal power; both are nominated and appointed by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly using consociational principles.

The incumbents are Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party as First Minister and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin as deputy First Minister. On 20 September 2011, John O'Dowd of Sinn Féin assumed the role of acting deputy First Minister in McGuinness' place, while McGuinness ran in the 2011 Irish presidential election Martin McGuinness Returned to the Role Of Deputy First Minister in Late October 2011 .

Contents

Responsibilities

Northern Ireland

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Politics and government of
Northern Ireland



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

Specifically, they are tasked with co-chairing meetings of the Northern Ireland Executive, "dealing with and co-ordinating" the work of the Executive, and the response of the administration to external relationships.[6]

The First Minister and deputy First Minister agree the agenda of Executive meetings[7] and can jointly determine "significant or controversial matters" to be considered by the Executive.[8]

Policy responsibilities include:[9]

Two junior ministers assist the First Minister and deputy First Minister in carrying out the work of OFMDFM. [10] They are jointly accountable to the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The incumbent junior ministers are Jonathan Bell (DUP) and Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin).

All three First Ministers of Northern Ireland to date have also been members of Privy Council of the United Kingdom, as have the First Minister of Scotland and First Minister of Wales; no deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland has been appointed as a Privy Counsellor. However, all First Ministers and the deputy First Minister are members of the Joint Ministerial Committee, a consultative body between the devolved administrations and the UK Government.[11]

Election

The diarchy was created to enable the leaders of the main unionist and nationalist parties to work together, jointly representing both main communities.

Initially, under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the First Minister was elected by the Assembly on a joint ticket with the deputy First Minister through a cross-community vote. For the purposes of a cross-community vote, MLAs are designated as unionist, nationalist or other.

The nominees for First Minister and deputy First Minister required the support of:

  • a majority of the members voting in the election;
  • a majority of the designated unionists voting; and
  • a majority of the designated nationalists voting.[12]

This procedure was used on 2 December 1999 to elect David Trimble (UUP) and Seamus Mallon (SDLP). Following several suspensions, Trimble was not re-elected on 2 November 2001 due to unionist opposition. He was subsequently re-elected alongside Mark Durkan (SDLP) on 6 November 2001. On that occasion, three Alliance Party of Northern Ireland members redesignated from 'other' to 'unionist' to support Trimble's nomination.[13]

Following the St Andrews Agreement in October 2006, this procedure was changed to allow for:

  • a First Minister nominated by the largest party of the largest designation;[14]
  • a deputy First Minister nominated by the largest party of the second largest designation.[15]

This procedure, which removed the need for a joint ticket between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin, was used to appoint Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness on 8 May 2007. It was again used to appoint Peter Robinson (DUP) alongside Martin McGuinness on 5 June 2008 and 12 May 2011.

However, if the largest party of the largest designation (currently the DUP) were not the largest party overall, the appointment procedure would be as follows:

  • a First Minister nominated by the largest party;
  • a deputy First Minister nominated by the largest party of the largest designation.[16]

This could potentially allow for a Sinn Féin First Minister if that party were to overtake the DUP in future. The Minister of Justice is now the only Northern Ireland Executive Minister elected on a cross-community vote. All other ministers are party appointees. [17]

Vacancy

The First Minister or deputy First Minister may also appoint another Northern Ireland Executive Minister to exercise the functions of the office during a vacancy, for a continuous period up to six weeks.[18] [19]

Vacancies have occurred on three occasions to date:

Terminology

"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, pointing out that the title was spelled this way in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the legislation which established the office. Some believe that the case was changed to highlight the fact that the position holds the same power as the position of First Minister, but a spokesman for McGuinness said that neither McGuinness 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 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 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 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 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.[20]

"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".[21] 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 arrangements.[21] In the Assembly chamber David McClarty used the phrase but was corrected by William Hay the Speaker.[21]

"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 website McGuinness is listed as "Joint First Minister".[21][22][23] The DUP denounced the term as "Republican Speak".[21]

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 Trimble and 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; the latter office became commonly known as "deputy First Minister" later in the year.

Paisley stood down in May 2008.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

Between 12 February 2000[27] and 30 May 2000,[28] and 15 October 2002[29] and 8 May 2007,[30] however, devolution was suspended, and along with it the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister. 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 24-hour periods of suspension on 11 August 2001[31][32] and 22 September 2001.[33][34] to allow timetables for negotiation to restart.[35]

First Ministers and deputy First Ministers

First Ministers

First Minister Deputy First Minister Took office Left office
Portrait Name Party Portrait Name Party
David Trimble at Lisburn Seed Group benefit, Hillsborough Castle, Christmas 2007 crop.jpg David Trimble Ulster Unionist No image.svg Seamus Mallon SDLP 2 December 1999 11 February 2000
Offices suspended 11 February 2000 30 May 2000
David Trimble at Lisburn Seed Group benefit, Hillsborough Castle, Christmas 2007 crop.jpg David Trimble No image.svg Seamus Mallon SDLP 30 May 2000 30 June 2001
No image.svg Sir Reg Empey
(acting)
Ulster Unionist 1 July 2001 6 November 2001[36]
David Trimble at Lisburn Seed Group benefit, Hillsborough Castle, Christmas 2007 crop.jpg David Trimble Ulster Unionist MarkDurkan.jpg Mark Durkan SDLP 6 November 2001 14 October 2002
Offices suspended 14 October 2002 8 May 2007
Ian Paisley - (cropped).png Ian Paisley Democratic Unionist Martin McGuinness 2009.jpg Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin 8 May 2007 5 June 2008
Peter Robinson2008.jpg Peter Robinson Democratic Unionist 5 June 2008 11 January 2010
No image.svg Arlene Foster
(acting)
Democratic Unionist 11 January 2010 3 February 2010
Peter Robinson2008.jpg Peter Robinson Democratic Unionist 3 February 2010 Incumbent
John O'Dowd.jpg John O'Dowd
(acting)
Sinn Féin 20 September 2011 31 October 2011

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.

See also

References

  1. ^ Belfast Telegraph[dead link]
  2. ^ North-South Ministerial Council: 2010 Annual Report in Ulster Scots
  3. ^ North/South Ministerial Council: 2009 Annual Report in Ulster Scots
  4. ^ North/South Ministerial Council: 2008 Annual Report in Ulster Scots
  5. ^ Policing and Justice Process Paper Northern Ireland Executive
  6. ^ "Section 2.2". Ministerial Code. Northern Ireland Executive. http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/work-of-the-executive/ministerial-code/ministerial-code-2.2-role-of-the-first-minister-and-deputy-first-minister. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Section 2.11". Ministerial Code. Northern Ireland Executive. http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/work-of-the-executive/ministerial-code/ministerial-code-2.11-executive-committee-agenda. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Section 2.3 (vii)". Ministerial Code. Northern Ireland Executive. http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/work-of-the-executive/ministerial-code/ministerial-code-2.3-functions-of-the-executive-committee. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "Section 2.4". Ministerial Code. Northern Ireland Executive. http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/work-of-the-executive/ministerial-code/ministerial-code-2.4-duty-to-bring. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Section 19, Northern Ireland Act 1998
  11. ^ "Joint Ministerial Commitee communique". Press Office Statements and Articles. Prime Minister's Office. 8 June 2011. http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/joint-ministerial-committee-%e2%80%93-communique/. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Section 16(3), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as enacted)
  13. ^ "Scuffles as Trimble re-elected". BBC News. 6 November 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1640568.stm. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  14. ^ Section 16A(4), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  15. ^ Section 16A(5), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  16. ^ Section 16C(6), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  17. ^ Section 21A(3A), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  18. ^ Section 16(5), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as enacted)
  19. ^ Section 16A(11), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  20. ^ Martin's D-lemma: lowering the case of the minister's title took top aides weeks Belfast Telegraph, 21 March 2008
  21. ^ a b c d e Are all things created equal? BBC News, 17 February 2009
  22. ^ Assembly Members Sinn Féin
  23. ^ Our conjoined ministers BBC News - The Devenport Diaries, 19 February 2009
  24. ^ Paisley to quit as first minister BBC News, 4 March 2008
  25. ^ Robinson confirmed as DUP leader BBC News, 17 April 2008
  26. ^ UTV Live
  27. ^ Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Commencement) Order 2000 S.I. 2000/396.
  28. ^ Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) Order 2000 2000/1446.
  29. ^ [http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/2574/contents/made Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) Order 2002 S.I. 2002/2574
  30. ^ The Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) Order 2007 S.I. 2007/1397.
  31. ^ Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) Order 2001 S.I. 2001/2884.
  32. ^ Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) Order 2001 S.I. 2001/2895.
  33. ^ Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Suspension of Devolved Government) (No.2) Order 2001 S.I. 2001/3230.
  34. ^ Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Restoration of Devolved Government) (No.2) Order 2001 S.I. 2001/3231.
  35. ^ "Northern Ireland chronology: 2001". BBC News. 9 April 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2933947.stm. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  36. ^ Office suspended for 24 hours on 11 August 2001 and 22 September 2001

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