Stephen Farry earmarked by Alliance for justice portfolio
STEPHEN Farry is clear favourite to be handed the justice portfolio should Alliance take a seat in the new Stormont executive.
The North Down MLA is also tipped to become the party's deputy leader when David Ford hands the leadership baton to Naomi Long.
It has yet to be confirmed whether Alliance will take charge of the Department of Justice in the new power-sharing government, but there is an expectation the party will again be offered the role under a convention agreed at the time of 2010 Hillsborough talks which bypasses the D'Hondt system.
Senior Alliance representatives have yet to commit to join the executive, though this is generally being regarded as a negotiating tactic rather than serious threat not to participate.
With a tally of only eight seats from last Thursday's Stormont election, Alliance does not automatically qualify for a place in the government.
Following the first meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss a Programme for Government, the party's chief whip Stewart Dickson took exception to Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt revealing that Alliance had been offered the justice ministry, although the claim was not denied by the East Antrim MLA.
Mr Dickson accused the UUP leader of breaching confidentiality.
"For Mr Nesbitt to hurry out and go straight to media claiming to know all sorts shows the flippant attitude of the UUP towards the talks and their level of commitment," he said.
"The UUP haven’t yet declared whether they will be in the executive or not. Unlike others, Alliance attended this morning’s talks with the correct attitude and willingness to get a result for the people of Northern Ireland, rather than a few headlines."
However, Alliance sources have confirmed to The Irish News that Mr Farry, the former employment and learning minister, has been earmarked for the justice job.
Outgoing minister Mr Ford has already ruled himself out of the role, while Ms Long is expected to replace him as party leader within the first half of the assembly's five-year mandate and would therefore exempt herself.
The same sources confirmed that Mr Farry would likely step into the deputy leader's post in a reshuffle that would follow Mr Ford's resignation.
Other outside contenders for the job are Mr Dickson and East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle.