Northern Ireland news

Attorney General's office won't say if he wants tenure renewed

John Larkin, Attorney General for Northern Ireland
Brendan Hughes

THE Office of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland has declined to say whether John Larkin wants his tenure to be renewed.

Mr Larkin has been in post since 2010. His appointment was previously extended by the first and deputy first ministers and lasts until May 23.

The first and deputy first ministers are usually needed to appoint an Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

But in the Stormont executive's continued absence, Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley has put regulations before the British parliament to allow her to make some appointments including the Attorney General.

Asked whether Mr Larkin would like to be reappointed to the role, a spokesman said: "The possibility of appointment is at present hypothetical. The question can be revisited when it is not."

Explaining the law, the spokesman said: "The Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 s 22(2) only allows for the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, to appoint an Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

"The Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointment Functions) Regulations 2019 will enable the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to appoint an Attorney General for Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland has not had a power-sharing government since early 2017, leaving civil servants to run Stormont departments.

With a minister usually needed to run recruitment processes and approve new appointments, a backlog of unfilled and extended public appointments has built up following the political institutions' collapse.

Secretary of state Karen Bradley brought legislation to Westminster last year to give Stormont officials greater legal clarity on decision-making and allow for the re-establishment of some boards in Stormont's absence, such as the Policing Board.

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