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Stormont's joint leaders last appeared together five weeks ago

First Minister Arlene Foster with boxers Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
John Manley and Andrew Madden

DESPITE holding a joint office, first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness have not been seen in public together in five weeks.

It seems that the last time both appeared together representing the executive office was at a reception for world champion boxer Carl Frampton and his title challenger Leo Santa Cruz at Stormont on November 29.

They were pictured on the steps of Stormont Castle with north Belfast boxer Frampton and Santa Cruz, from Mexico.

The pair also attended the North South Ministerial Council on November 18 and the unveiling of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in London on November 9.

They were due to take a joint trade mission to China at the beginning of December.

However, Mrs Foster ended up going on the trip without her joint leader after Mr McGuinness was advised by doctors to stay at home for health reasons.

It is still unclear precisely what health issues prevented the joint first minister from travelling.

The executive office was asked on Tuesday to clarify when exactly Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness' last public appearance together was, however it did not respond.

Justice Minister Claire Sugden has been told to "get off the fence". Picture by Ann McManus

Claire Sudgen silence on RHI draws criticism  

JUSTICE Minister Claire Sugden has been urged to "get off the fence" over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) controversy.

The independent MLA, who was recruited into the executive after Alliance rejected the justice portfolio last May, has not commented on the RHI scandal since before Christmas.

The minister voted against December's SDLP motion of no confidence in Arlene Foster, calling it "premature".

"It would be remiss of me, particularly as justice minister, to pass judgement without a full investigation or hearing," Ms Sugden told the assembly on December 19.

"No court in the land would do so, so why is it appropriate to do so in the house today before a fair independent investigation?"

Efforts by The Irish News to contact Ms Sugden have so far proved fruitless.

An Ulster Unionist spokesman said it was time for the East Derry MLA to "exert pressure on both the DUP and Sinn Féin".

He said she had been "ridiculously silent" on the RHI issue.

"Her performance has been a massive disappointment and if she is to be true to her promises to hold others to account, she needs to get off the fence and prove she is not simply so beholden to the DUP and Sinn Féin that she has her fingers in her ears," the spokesman said.

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