Accusation of ‘foot-dragging’ as plans to replace NI’s top legal advisor still not under way... mere weeks before he quits

The Northern Ireland Executive today said that “it will initiate a selection process” to replace the Attorney General... with a mere fortnight left to go before he stands down.

By Adam Kula
Monday, 15th June 2020, 5:04 pm
Attorney General John Larkin at Belfast High Court
Attorney General John Larkin at Belfast High Court

John Larkin has been in the role for the past decade, but will vacate the post on June 30.

It has long been known that the date of his departure was looming; in May last year NI Secretary Karen Bradley announced a 13-month extention of Mr Larkin’s contract until June 30, to “ensure stability and continuity”.

The Executive Office issued a public statement about it today, a week after the News Letter began repeatedly pressing it for answers.

TUV leader Jim Allister, himself a qualified QC, put the failure to find a successor down to “Executive disagreement and feet-dragging... in spite of the fact that they have known since the return of devolution in January that John Larkin’s term of office ended this month”.

He went on to say: “Mr Larkin has performed the role with great alacrity and skill and it is my view that it would have been preferable and made more sense to have extended his term to the end of the Assembly mandate.”

Mr Larkin is politically-independent.

Prior to his appointment in 2010, the attorney-general role was filled by GB-based Lords and MPs.

Whoever his replacement is must be a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland for at least 10 years, or a solicitor of the Court of Judicature (the major courts including the Crown Court and High Court) for 10 years.

In a joint statement today, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The Executive Office will initiate a selection process to help identify and appoint Mr Larkin’s successor.”

The Executive Office said “a number of options for interim arrangements” are being considered.

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