Justice Minister “truly fearful” for future of Northern Ireland

Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye. ''Justice Minister Claire Sugden
Picture by Stephen Hamilton / Press Eye. ''Justice Minister Claire Sugden

Justice Minister Claire Sugden has said she is “truly fearful” for the future of Northern Ireland following the resignation of Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister over the RHI scandal and the ensuing political crisis.

Ms Sugden, an independent unionist MLA who took over the position of Justice Minister following the Alliance Party’s decision to withdraw from the Executive last year, described Martin McGuinness’ resignation as “bitterly disappointing”.

In a statement issued last night, she said: “Martin McGuinness’s resignation as deputy First Minister is bitterly disappointing.

“A reasonable resolution could have been achieved which leads me to believe that this crisis goes beyond RHI and points to a more intractable situation.

“The DUP and SF’s inability to work together is a fundamental flaw not envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement and will continue to burden the people of Northern Ireland as long as their best interests come second to entrenched party politics.

“Today is a dark day for Northern Ireland; I am truly fearful for our future.

“An immediate election will no doubt return the two main parties to power and will have no effect other than to further hold the public in contempt and redraw lines that were promised behind us. We are in crisis and ultimately it is the people of NI who will suffer. I am deeply saddened by the lost opportunities to fulfil our potential.

“It has been my privilege to serve as Justice Minister for Northern Ireland. My sole reason for accepting the position was the chance to changes lives for the better. In my short time, it has not been possible to fulfil all my promises. I am personally troubled that I have been unable to achieve much more for the people of Northern Ireland. They deserve so much better.

“I will continue to perform my duties as Justice Minister until the next NI Assembly Election. I am not prepared to walk away from my responsibilities. I will be responsible for the power I currently hold.

I will take time to discuss with my family, friends and constituents if I will put forward a candidacy for election. My greatest achievement is serving the people of East Londonderry. Thank you to all those who afforded me the privilege last year and thank you for your support over recent weeks and in the weeks ahead.”