The Alliance Party has told Stormont’s leaders they must deliver on a five-point wish list if they want it to retake the Executive’s contentious justice ministry.
Alliance leader David Ford presented the demands to the DUP and Sinn Fein during post-election talks on the formation of a new coalition administration.
“We will wait to see what response we receive from the DUP and Sinn Fein and what further discussions there might be,” he said.
The party’s decision on whether to accept the DUP/Sinn Fein offer to again take on a post it has filled since 2010 has become crucial to the viability of the next Executive.
If the cross-community party declines, Stormont will be facing another crisis, just weeks after the Assembly election, as neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein are likely to allow the other to assume the politically sensitive portfolio.
That mutual veto has been overcome in recent years by the willingness of Alliance to take the job.
Mr Ford made clear his party will only fulfil the role again if it achieves progress on five key policy issues – building an integrated society; funding of services, not division; “cleaning up” of politics; investment in jobs, skills and economy; and ending all forms of paramilitarism.
He and party colleagues have drawn up a three-page document for DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and are now awaiting their response.
While the DUP and Sinn Fein have until next Wednesday to form a new administration – something that will be impossible without a justice minister – Alliance wants to see progress before Thursday evening, when its ruling council is due to meet to discuss the issue.
If Alliance was to take the ministry, it would only remain in the post if certain timelines for delivery of its requests are met by the main parties.
“What we will be putting forward will require specific targets to be reached and commitments to be made and delivery by certain dates,” said Mr Ford.
“If that delivery is not made then an Alliance minister will not remain in post, if there is an Alliance minister in post at all.”
Unlike most ministerial jobs in the administration, the justice minister can only be appointed with the backing of both a majority of nationalist and a majority of unionist MLAs.
Mrs Foster has already made clear her party would not consent to Sinn Fein taking the post.