Northern Ireland news

John O'Dowd misses out on executive seat

John O'Dowd has missed out on an executive seat. Picture by Hugh Russell

SINN Féin national chairman Declan Kearney has been appointed as a Stormont junior minister alongside the DUP's assembly chief whip Gordon Lyons.

The largely symbolic roles are based within the Executive Office and come with a £55,000 salary.

Previous junior ministers have included Ian Paisley, Jonathan Bell, Megan Fearon and Gerry Kelly.

Mr Kearney said yesterday the deal to restore power-sharing had created a "beachhead" to advance the debate toward a united Ireland.

The South Antrim MLA told RTÉ that the institutions would work as an "engine" for moving to constitutional change.

Sinn Féin veteran Alex Maskey was appointed assembly speaker with DUP support on Saturday - despite speculation the SDLP's Patsy McGlone would get the role - while the deputy speakers are the DUP's Christopher Stalford, Mr McGlone and the UUP's Roy Beggs.

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There was no seat at the executive table for former education minister John O'Dowd, who last year challenged Michelle O'Neill for the Sinn Féin vice-presidency.

However, the Upper Bann MLA has been appointed the party's assembly whip.

The DUP's Paul Givan is another high-profile minister in the administration that collapsed in 2017 who has not been recalled to the executive, while his party colleague and former agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen was also overlooked for a ministry.

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Mr Givan controversially withdrew funding for the Líofa Irish language bursary at the height of public outcry over the RHI scandal, a move which many regarded as a catalyst for the collapse of institutions.

Former Sinn Féin culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín completes the set of one-time Stormont ministers who despite being eligible for a seat at the executive table was not nominated.


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