DUP has just days left to decide whether to take ex-UUP ministry

Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy as he signs his Letter of Resignation in Parliament Buildings
Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy as he signs his Letter of Resignation in Parliament Buildings

Peter Robinson will on Monday be asked by the Assembly Speaker whether he wants to nominate a DUP minister to replace the UUP regional development minister.

The post will have been vacant for almost three weeks by the time Mr Robinson is asked if he will appoint a minister.

If, as expected, Mr Robinson takes the ministry, it is likely that the seat will immediately become vacant again under the DUP’s policy of rolling resignations.

The Assembly’s provisional order paper for Monday also contains a motion from the DUP about the “crisis in the agriculture industry”.

The motion, which calls on Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill to act “as a matter of urgency” to assist farmers, appeared to be evidence that the DUP’s policy of boycotting the Assembly, which began on Monday, could be about to change.

However, a DUP source last night said that the motion had been put down for debate before the boycott policy was adopted, meaning that it is likely to be withdrawn.

Monday will also see a debate on a motion brought by Sinn Fein expressing “grave concern” that there is no health minister due to the current DUP tactics in response to the PSNI belief that IRA members murdered Kevin McGuigan.

It is not clear whether the DUP will respond to that motion in the chamber. However, in a statement on Tuesday former health minister Simon Hamilton said that “Sinn Fein and SDLP attacks about the DUP not doing business as usual in the Assembly doesn’t change the facts as to why we have a crisis in Northern Ireland”.

He added: “The reason why we need a talks process is because both nationalists and republicans have failed to live up to commitments they previously made.

“Whether it is PIRA activity or the non-implementation of welfare reform, both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have questions to answer. No amount of grandstanding in the Assembly chamber can change that.”

However, although the DUP boycott of the Assembly may continue, Acting First Minister Arlene Foster is likely to speak in the chamber on Monday.

First Minister’s questions — a requirement of all ministers — is due on Monday and, as the First Minister is legally still in place, Mrs Foster will have to answer questions.