Northern Ireland

David Ford in justice minister job warning

The justice minister has offered to resign to prevent his department being dissolved.
Image caption David Ford was appointed justice minister following the 2010 deal

The Alliance Party leader David Ford has made a veiled threat not to stand again as justice minister.

It follows last week's proposal to abolish the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL). The DEL minister is Alliance's Stephen Farry.

The proposal followed discussions at Stormont Castle over the future of the justice ministry held by Mr Ford.

Alliance gave its formal response to the proposal ahead of a deadline on Monday evening.

It argued that any party which takes the justice portfolio under the current cross-community compromise should give up one of its current ministries.

It also wants the streamlining of Stormont departments to be addressed in a comprehensive manner and for any future justice minister to have the same job security as their executive colleagues.

Mr Ford said: "I don't do huffs, but certainly there is a real chance that if we don't get the structures right which provide the protection there will not be an Alliance justice minister when they change the pattern of ministers which they're proposing to do."

Mr Ford's appointment as justice minister was a compromise to ensure justice powers could be transferred to Stormont from Westminster in April 2010.

As a result, the SDLP lost out on a second ministry, while the Alliance was able to gain one.

Any decision on Alliance's future participation in the executive would have to be made by its ruling council.

It is scheduled to meet at the start of March.

However, BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said he believed the DUP and Sinn Fein would "push ahead with this proposal" on the DEL.

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