Northern Ireland news

Claire Sugden named as Justice Minister

Ms Sugden takes over from Alliance leader David Ford as Justice Minister 

INDEPENDENT Unionist MLA Claire Sugden has been named as Stormont's new Justice Minister.

The 29-year-old East Derry MLA only emerged as a contender last week when Alliance snubbed a DUP-Sinn Féin offer.

DUP First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness flanked Ms Sugden in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings in Belfast as her appointment was confirmed.

Ms Sugden, the daughter of a former prison officer, said the job represented a "huge challenge" but she was "up for it".

"This is probably the most difficult decision I have had in my life," she said.

"It did cause me a lot of anxiety over this last week but it is an opportunity for me, for my constituency and most importantly it's an opportunity for Northern Ireland.

"And I am looking forward to it."

Mrs Foster said the independent MLA would be a minister for "all the people" in the north.

"Martin and I are delighted that Claire has agreed to be the new justice minister in the new mandate and we are very much looking forward to working with her," she said.

Mr McGuinness hailed Ms Sugden as "impressive and progressive".

Wordcloud: Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster unveil Claire Sugden as justice minister

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"I am equally as delighted as Arlene that Claire has agreed to take up this onerous responsibility, this very challenging position but we have every confidence in her ability," he said.

The DUP and Sinn Féin have also revealed the MLAs from their parties that will be appointed to ministerial positions.

In a post on Twitter, DUP leader Arlene Foster revealed that MLAs Paul Givan, Alastair Ross, Simon Hamilton, Peter Weir and Michelle McIlveen will be appointed as ministers.

MLAs Michelle O'Neill, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Chris Hazzard and Megan Fearon are to be appointed to ministerial positions, although their departments are yet to be confirmed.  

The appointment of Ms Sugden to the post means that the DUP will have four executive seats to Sinn Féin's three, meaning that one MLA from each party will be a junior minister.

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