Stormont: here's what happened at the Assembly as powersharing returned
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The Assembly is now adjourned and is expected to sit again on Monday.
All ministers are now appointed
First Minister: Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein
Deputy First Minister: Emma Little Pengelly, DUP
Justice Minister: Naomi Long, Alliance
Economy Minister: Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein
Education Minister: Paul Givan, DUP
Sinn Fein have requested an adjournment after the DUP take education – Sinn Fein clearly expected to take that post with Caoimhe Archibald
Finance Minister: Caoimhe Archibald, Sinn Fein
Communities Minister: Gordon Lyons, DUP
Health Minister: Robin Swann, Ulster Unionist
Infrastructure Minister: John O’Dowd, Sinn Fein
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister: Andrew Muir, Alliance
The junior ministers in the Executive Office are Aisling Reilly, Sinn Fein and Pam Cameron, DUP
The SDLP are now the Official Opposition
Jim Allister says O’Neill election is “consummation” of the Donaldson deal – and attacks ‘unelected bridesmaid’
The TUV leader has attacked the DUP for “enthroning” Michelle O’Neill as First Minister “with the unelected bridesmaid as deputy” – referencing Emma Little Pengelly’s co-option rather than election to the Assembly.
He said Sir Jeffrey Donaldson had delivered a First Minister who “wallows in glorification of terrorism and tells us there was no alternative to the murder of our kith and kin. No alternative to La Mon. No alternative to Enniskillen. No alternative to Teeban. No alternative to Kingsmills or to Markethill. And no alternative to the incineration of a young woman, Yvonne Dunlop, in my constituency in Ballymena whose vile murdered McIlwee Ms O’Neill celebrates every year. This year she will do so as First Minister. Well done Jeffrey”.
The North Antrim MLA said that “We now have a First Minister under direction and control of the IRA Army Council. Not my belief – the unaltered assessment – police assessment – of the nexus between Sinn Fein and the IRA. Such a puppet will never be a First Minister for all.”
Awkward moment from the SDLP leader of the Opposition
The SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole – in a gushing tribute to Michelle O’Neill – wished the First Minster “warm congratulations” and “congratulations” to the deputy First Minister. Urging either of the First Ministers to "add to the pledge of office” that they wouldn’t collapse the institutions. After a bit of an awkward pause, the First Minister said it wasn’t a day “for stunts” and committed to work with the other parties.
Michelle O’Neill is now Northern Ireland’s First Minister – Emma Little Pengelly is deputy
The Sinn Fein MLA described it as an honour to take up the post of First Minister. On policy she highlighted childcare, an A5 upgrade, investment in Londonderry and the North West, the opportunities of the Windsor Framework and all-Ireland economy. Ms O’Neill called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and expressed support for the Palestinian
She described herself as a “proud Ulster woman, Tyrone woman, and a deeply proud Irish and European woman”. She said as a republican she would serve everyone – and that British and unionist identities were important to her.
The deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly said she would work tirelessly with Michelle O’Neill – describing both of them as First Ministers. She said she loves Northern Ireland.
Looking towards the gallery she thanked party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and deputy leader Gavin Robinson for the opportunity they have given her. She referenced as a child witnessing the terror of a huge IRA bomb in her hometown of Markethill. She said the past wouldn’t be allowed to be rewritten, but she wanted a better future for Northern Ireland.
The Lagan Valley MLA said: “There can be no dominating from one to the other, but a new approach of recognising the concerns of each other and finding solutions together. We are all born equal - and the people who look on this sitting today demand us to work together.
“Michelle is an Irish republican and I am a unionist. We will never agree on those issues, but what we can is agree on is that cancer doesn’t discriminate and our hospitals need fixed.
Carál Ní Chuilín principal Deputy Speaker
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly formally nominates Carál Ní Chuilín as Edwin Poots deputy – Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw nominates colleague John Blair as another deputy Speaker and Steve Aiken is also put forward.
Stormont already lagging behind…
Events are already running over half an hour behind schedule.
Edwin Poots elected as Speaker – restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly
Mr Poots has been elected by a cross community vote, and is now in the chair. The South Belfast MLA will now preside over the Assembly for the rest of the mandate. The role of Speaker has traditionally been impartial. The BBC’s Enda McClafferty is reporting that Edwin Poots intends to ‘push the boundaries’ of what the Speaker can do. Previous speakers wouldn’t have attended party political meetings or rallies, for example, but would continue constituency work.
Addressing MLAs he said he would carry out his work with impartiality. He said he was always someone who was up for the battle and the fight – but now he would have to tone it all down. He said he is delighted that the Assembly had returned – and that it would never be suspended again.
The SDLP – now the official opposition in the Assembly – got their first opportunity to oppose by going against the grain in voting against Mr Poots as Speaker.
Poots proposed as Speaker
MLAs are voting on whether to accept the DUP’s Edwin Poots for the role of Speaker.
Mike Nesbitt praises outgoing Speaker
Speaking about the importance of the role of Speaker, the UUP MLA praised outgoing Speaker – Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey – with a series of anecdotes about the work he did behind the scenes. He said if Jim Allister’s analysis is correct – “why has he ended his boycott”.
Gerry Carroll attacks ‘establishment’ parties
The People Before Profit MLA for West Belfast says the main parties want to slash corporation tax and aren’t acting in the interests of workers. He said unionism “remains in terminal decline” and claimed the Tory-DUP deal was about integrating NI into British military institutions.
Jim Allister addresses Assembly
Speaking in the chamber Jim Allister says NI continues to be ruled by foreign laws “beyond the reach of the Stormont Brake”. He says we still have an Irish Sea border – and said if it was removed there wouldn’t still be border posts being built. He cited the Belfast Telegraph’s Sam McBride as describing the new deal as “The Windsor Framework in drag”. Mr Allister said many on the DUP benches were unhappy with the deal – and that a vote for the Speaker is a vote to implement the protocol. He accused the DUP’s Edwin Poots of being full of bluff and buster before supporting the deal. He pointed out that Mr Poots had said there needed to be “seismic” changes to the Protocol – saying nothing of the sort had happened.
Speculation over who is taking which Executive seats
The UUP’s Robin Swann is likely to return as Health Minister. The DUP look set to take Finance and either Communities or Education – with Gordon Lyons and Paul Givan as the ministers. Alliance’s Naomi Long will be Justice Minister and her colleague Andrew Muir will take the last pick of ministries – possibly DAERA.
Father of the House in the chair
Alan Chambers is in the Speaker’s chair – presiding over the first part of the events – as the father of the house. He will be there until after the election of the Justice Minister – and the First and deputy First Ministers. There will then be a break and the new speaker, likely the DUP’s Edwin Poots, will preside over the allocation of ministries.
Sir Jeffrey speaks ahead of Assembly convening
Speaking before the sitting Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said today is a good day – as he remembered the sacrifice of many, and committed to building a Northern Ireland “that we can all be proud of”. He was standing beside Emma Little Pengelly who is expected to become deputy First Minister alongside Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill.