The DUP has shrugged off criticism from Jim Allister to take the Stormont ministry vacated by the Ulster Unionists who quit the Executive after the PSNI said that IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
The DUP’s decision to formally take the seat, which came in the Assembly at lunch time today, almost three weeks after the department was left minster-less, was not a surprise.
If the DUP had not taken the Regional Development position, it would have gone to a nationalist MLA.
When invited by Assembly Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin to nominate a minister, Mr Robinson put forward Strangford MLA Michelle McIlveen. Mr Allister heckled Mr Robinson, accusing the DUP of benefiting from murder in accepting the post, leading to the TUV leader being warned by the Speaker to be quiet.
Ms McIlveen’s new appointment comes just over a week after she resigned from her position as a junior minister as part of the DUP protest at the Government’s refusal to suspend Stormont.
Her appointment means that the DUP now has six Executive ministers, albeit most of those are now only in post for a few hours each week as part of the party’s current tactic of ‘rolling resignations’.
The legality of that tactic was raised with the Speaker in the Assembly today. Alliance’s Stewart Dickson questioned whether that tactic is in keeping with the ministerial pledge of office, arguing that it was could be viewed as bringing the Assembly into disrepute. He accused the DUP of “playing games”.
But the Speaker, Mitchel McLaughlin, said that he was content for the appointment to proceed.
The SDLP’s Column Eastwood accused the DUP of appointing “ten-minute ministers”, something he said was undermining the Assembly.
He added: “By keeping the position in limbo, the DUP is holding up plans for the A6 Belfast – Derry road, the A5 connecting the West and countless other projects vital to our long term economic wellbeing.”