Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson: Northern Ireland's best years ahead

First Minister Peter Robinson has told the assembly that Northern Ireland's best years are still to come.

He was speaking after being reaffirmed as first minister. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was returned as deputy first minister.

The DUP's William Hay was returned to the post of speaker of the NI assembly.

Sinn Fein's Francie Molloy, the UUP's Roy Beggs and the SDLP's John Dallat, were all elected as deputy speakers.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have jointly signed a motion to create a new role at Stormont of principal deputy speaker.

It is thought the job is intended for Francie Molloy, who is expected to take over as speaker from Mr Hay in 2014.

Mr Robinson said the electorate had made it very clear on the doorsteps that they wanted to see the politicians "moving Northern Ireland forward".

"The people have spoken, their verdict is clear," he said.

"The elections are over and now is the time to govern.

"This new assembly gives us the chance of a fresh start with a renewed mandate, let us use it to create the new NI."

The first minister also warned that he would take a hard stance against those who tried to disrupt the democratic process.

'Thorn in the flesh'

"I want to make it clear that there are those outside who think that they can disturb the will of the people through terrorism, and there might even be some inside who think that they will do it by political means," he said.

"To all of them I say I'll be a thorn in the flesh of anyone who would try and disrupt the democratic will of the people of NI."

Martin McGuinness said he was "honoured" to be reaffirmed as deputy first minister.

"We've power sharing and north south institutions and east west institutions and the agreements that flow from all of that, whether it be at St Andrews or Hillsborough, bind all of us together," he said.

"There can be no question that we have improved the quality of our people's lives."

Image caption William Hay was elected to the post of assembly speaker on Thursday

Mr McGuinness said he would respect the political differences between the parties at Stormont.

"I am an Irish republican and my allegiance is to the people of Ireland, but I can work with people who observe a different flag without being offended by that, and I think if it is not too much to expect that they can work with me, without being offended by the flag that I give my allegiance to," he said.

He told MLAs that it was time to move forward "together and united".

"What is the battle? The battle is against the world recession, unemployment, disadvantage, inequality and poverty in our society. It's a battle for jobs," he said.

New faces

It took about an hour to complete the formal registration process of signing in the new MLAs on Thursday morning.

There are some new faces taking their seats at Stormont for the first time.

Among them are the DUP's Pam Lewis, Sinn Fein's Sean Lynch, Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson and the SDLP's Colum Eastwood.

The TUV's Jim Allister, a staunch critic of the system, has also formally taken up his post.

There are 38 DUP members, 29 Sinn Fein, 16 Ulster Unionists, 14 SDLP and eight Alliance.

Stephen Agnew took up the sole position for the Green Party, while David McClarty remains an Independent.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, now a TD (Irish MP), watched the proceedings from the visitors' gallery.

The names of the MLAs who will sit in the executive and what jobs they will do will not be known until next Monday.