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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014

Existing law

51.Section 21A of the 1998 Act sets out a number of possible appointment mechanisms for the Justice Minister, one of which may be selected and provided for by an Act of the Assembly. The Assembly enacted legislation in 2010 (the Department of Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2010) which opted for the mechanism set out in section 21A(3A) of the 1998 Act. The Justice Minister is appointed by virtue of a nomination made by one or more members of the Assembly, and approved by a cross-community vote. Part 1A of Schedule 4A to the 1998 Act applies to this appointment, creating certain differences between this appointment and the appointment of other Northern Ireland Ministers.

52.First, the Justice Minister is appointed after the other Northern Ireland Ministers. The d’Hondt procedure, which ensures that each party is responsible for appointing a number of Ministers in proportion to the number of seats they hold in the Assembly, governs all Ministerial appointments, save for that of the Justice Minister. The Justice Minister’s appointment is made outside the parameters of the d’Hondt procedure, which means that the party from which the Justice Minister is appointed will have an ‘extra’ Ministerial post.

53.Second, the incumbent Justice Minister can be removed if a motion is raised to that effect by either the FM/dFM acting together, or 30 or more Assembly members, followed by a majority cross-community vote. This is in contrast to other Ministers, who are appointed by their party’s Nominating Officer, who has the power to dismiss the incumbent and refill the Ministerial position. The effect of the current provisions is that the position of the Justice Minister is less secure than that of the other Ministers in the Assembly.

54.The Act amends the appointment procedure to give the Justice Minister the same security of tenure as that of the other Ministerial posts, and to rectify the anomaly in respect of the relationship between the representation of parties in the Assembly and appointment to Ministerial office.

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