22/03/2011

McGuinness Prepared To 'Share' Role

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has announced that Sinn Féin is prepared to share the First Minister role with the DUP, should the party top the polls in May.

Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams have always argued that the powers of the first and deputy first minister have been equal.

Mr McGuinness commented: "If the electorate return Sinn Féin and the DUP as the largest party, I would be prepared to give consideration to the title of 'Joint First Minister', or both First Minister. It would make sense if we would be able to agree that, and if Sinn Féin were the largest party that is something I will consider. The reality is that this term of the Assembly, Peter (Robinson) and I have got exactly the same powers and authority."

The DUP's Arlene Foster has accused Mr McGuinness of using the comments as an "election ploy" to discourage unionist voters.

Foster commented: "He said: 'I am prepared to consider' and that is exactly what he is doing. He is putting it out there as an election ploy to say to people don't be worried, don't bother coming out to vote for unionism because I am not really all that bad and I am considering this."

UUP leader Tom Elliott said the idea of joint First Ministers "does away" with a major DUP argument going into the election.

Mr McGuinness said he has not yet discussed the idea with current First Minister Mr Robinson.

The assembly elections in Northern Ireland are to be held on 5 May.

(JG/GK)

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