SF minister declines to comment on deputy FM nomination refusal query

A Sinn Fein minister in Northern Ireland has declined to say whether the party is considering refusing to nominate a deputy First Minister this week if they do not receive assurances over the delivery of language legislation.

New DUP leader Edwin Poots is expected to unveil his ministerial line-up at Stormont on Tuesday.

He previously indicated he will nominate a colleague to serve as First Minister to allow himself to focus on leading the party.

DUP MLAs Mervyn Storey and Paul Givan are understood to be under consideration.

However, the Executive will not be able to function if Sinn Fein do not nominate a deputy First Minister to work with the new First Minister.

Sinn Fein communities minister Deirdre Hargey said she wants to see commitments on Irish language legislation in the January 2020 New Decade New Approach deal acted on.

“Edwin Poots himself, who was one of the negotiators around New Decade New Approach back last year, he endorsed that agreement as well as the wider DUP,” she said.

“I am hopeful in the engagement in the time ahead around all of the five parties in the Executive that we can bring that legislation through in this mandate.

“It’s contained within the agreement, we want to see implementation of the agreement which works for all of the people here.

“Edwin Poots has previously said that he is a man of his word, he said that he is here to implement the New Decade New Approach agreement, and I would see that he wants to implement that in all of its parts.

Edwin Poots interview
Edwin Poots is set to name his ministerial line-up (Niall Carson/PA)

“Mary-Lou (McDonald) has written to all of the party leaders, she wants a party leaders’ forum to be established and for that to be meeting this week … I do hope the party leaders can get round the table.

“The DUP leadership contest is over, now is the time to focus on delivering New Decade New Approach.”

Ms Hargey was asked on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programmes whether Sinn Fein will refuse to co-operate on the nomination of new ministers this week if they do not receive a commitment implementing Irish language legislation in this mandate.

“I think the focus now is to make sure that all of the parties, there are five parties in the Executive, I think there is an overwhelming view within the broader community that they want to see these changes come forward, they want to see the implementation of the agreement that was laid down and got power-sharing restored again,” she said.

Pressed on the question, Ms Hargey said: “Our focus is on the implementation of the agreement, our focus is making sure that the power-sharing institutions work, our focus is to make sure that the five-party Executive can work on the implementation of those agreements.

“Mary-Lou has written to the party leaders this week asking for an urgent meeting to look at the implementation going forward.”