Northern Ireland parties form new government

Northern Ireland parties form new government

Rival communities agree on coalition deal after independent lawmaker assumes sensitive Justice Ministry helm

LONDON (AA) – A power-sharing government has been formed in Northern Ireland after British unionists and Irish republicans agreed to offer the sensitive Justice Ministry to an independent lawmaker.

Claire Sugden, an independent unionist, was offered the portfolio after the two largest parties in the province – which is part of the U.K. – said they would veto a minister from each another.

Under an 18-year-old peace deal, Northern Ireland’s government must be a partnership between British unionists and republicans, who favor union with the Republic of Ireland.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and republican Sinn Fein emerged as the two largest parties from Northern Ireland Assembly elections held earlier this month.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness will serve as first and deputy first ministers in the new government.

Foster and McGuinness welcomed Sugden’s decision to assume the justice role, which is responsible for policing and the courts and seen as particularly sensitive in healing rifts between the region’s two communities.

“Martin and I are delighted that Claire has agreed to be new justice minister and we are very much looking forward to working with her and I hope she will be given the credit she deserves in stepping forward and taking on this ministry,” Foster said a press announcement on Wednesday.

McGuinness added: “I am equally delighted Claire has taken up this very onerous position – a very challenging position. But we have every confidence in her ability and have watched her progress over the past two years in the Assembly.”

The justice ministry was previously held by the cross-community Alliance Party, which decided not to join the coalition and instead formed Northern Ireland’s first political opposition with two smaller parties – the unionist UUP and republican SDLP.

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