The FIRST MINISTER and DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER are the joint heads of the Northern Ireland Executive and have overall responsibility for the running of the Executive Office .
The two positions have the same governmental power; despite the name, the deputy First Minister is not subordinate to the First Minister. Created under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement , both were initially nominated and appointed by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly on a joint ticket by a cross-community vote , using consociational principles. That process was changed following the 2006 St Andrews Agreement , meaning that the First Minister and deputy First Minister are now nominated separately by the largest parties in each of the two largest community designations in the assembly.
* 1 Responsibilities * 2 Election * 3 Vacancy
* 4 Terminology
* 4.1 Titles in Irish * 4.2 Titles in Ulster Scots * 4.3 Capitalisation of "deputy" * 4.4 "Joint First Minister" and "Co-First Minister"
* 5 History
* 6 First Ministers and deputy First Ministers
* 6.1 Direct Rule First Ministers
* 7 Living Former First Ministers and deputy First Ministers * 8 See also * 9 References * 10 External links
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First Minister and deputy First Minister share equal
responsibilities within government, and their decisions are made
jointly. The First Minister is, though, the first to greet official
Specifically, they are tasked with co-chairing meetings of the Northern Ireland Executive , "dealing with and co-ordinating" the work of the Executive, and the response of the administration to external relationships.
The First Minister and deputy First Minister agree the agenda of Executive meetings and can jointly determine "significant or controversial matters" to be considered by the Executive.
The ministers' policy responsibilities include:
* economic policy * equality before the law * European Union issues * human rights * the machinery of government (including the Ministerial Code) * public appointments policy * standards in public life
Two junior ministers assist the First Minister and deputy First Minister in carrying out the work of OFMDFM. They are jointly accountable to the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The incumbent junior ministers are Jonathan Bell (Democratic Unionist Party ) and Jennifer McCann (Sinn Féin).
As originally established under the
The nominees for First Minister and deputy First Minister required the support of:
* a majority of the members voting in the election; * a majority of the designated unionists voting; and * a majority of the designated nationalists voting.
This procedure was used on 2 December 1999 to elect David Trimble
Ulster Unionist Party , UUP) and
Seamus Mallon (Social Democratic and
Labour Party , SDLP). Following several suspensions of the Northern
Ireland Executive, Trimble was not re-elected on 2 November 2001 due
to unionist opposition. He was subsequently re-elected alongside Mark
Durkan (SDLP) on 6 November 2001; on that occasion, three Alliance
Following the St Andrews Agreement in October 2006, this procedure was changed to allow for:
* a First Minister nominated by the largest party of the largest designation; * a deputy First Minister nominated by the largest party of the second largest designation.
This procedure, which removed the need for a joint ticket between the
Democratic Unionist Party and
Sinn Féin , was used to appoint Ian
Martin McGuinness on 8 May 2007. It was again used to
appoint Peter Robinson (DUP) alongside
Martin McGuinness on 5 June
2008 and again on 12 May 2011; and to appoint
However, if the largest party of the largest designation (currently the DUP) were not the largest party overall, the appointment procedure would be as follows:
* a First Minister nominated by the largest party; * a deputy First Minister nominated by the largest party of the largest designation.
The Minister of Justice is now the only
The First Minister or deputy First Minister may also appoint another Northern Ireland Executive Minister to exercise the functions of the office during a vacancy; currently for a continuous period up to six weeks.
Vacancies have occurred on four occasions to date: First Minister
Sir Reg Empey for
deputy First Minister
* John O\'Dowd for Martin McGuinness (20 September 2011 – 31 October 2011)
TITLES IN IRISH
In the Irish language, the literal translation of these positions is
"Céad-Aire agus an leas Chéad-Aire". The titles appear in both
English and Irish in published literature by the North-South
Ministerial Council, one of the "mutually inter-dependent"
institutions laid out in the Good Friday Agreement, along with the
TITLES IN ULSTER SCOTS
Various ways of translating the titles "First Minister and deputy
First Minister" into the
Ulster Scots dialects
CAPITALISATION OF "DEPUTY"
The second position has been spelt "Deputy" or "deputy" First Minister, due to differing preferences by civil servants (and potentially ministers), although the spelling of the title has no constitutional consequences in practice.
The first two holders of the office,
Seamus Mallon and
Mark Durkan ,
were both referred to during their periods of office as "Deputy First
Minister", with a capital D. In the Good Friday Agreement, also known
as the Belfast Agreement, which established the executive in Northern
Ireland, the two positions are spelt "First Minister and Deputy First
Minister" (with a capital D). This was also adopted in 1999 for the
logo of the OFMDFM. Several weeks after
Martin McGuinness took up
office as Deputy First Minister in 2007, civil servants in his
department began asking the Assembly's
Officials edited the department's archive of press releases to make that change (despite its use by Mallon and Durkan when in office) but the capital D still appears in some places, and a spokesman confirmed on 20 March 2008 that the office had "no plans" to change the OFMDFM logo. However, the Assembly committee that scrutinises their work is now listed as the "Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister". Ultimately it was decided that McGuinness should be the deputy First Minister, unless all the other letters in the title are in capitals. Confusion isn't completely resolved however; if McGuinness writes to the Assembly committee that scrutinises his work, his note will have a letterhead that comes from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, but he'll get a reply back from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.
In official language, the positions are sometimes abbreviated to FM/DFM,
"JOINT FIRST MINISTER" AND "CO-FIRST MINISTER"
Sinn Féin started using the phrases Joint First Minister and Co-First Minister in 2009 to describe the deputy First Minister to highlight the fact that the First Minister and deputy First Minister operated in tandem. Martin McGuinness used the term Joint First Minister himself when he arrived for a meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council in February 2009; the DUP denounced the term as "republican speak" and it is not used in legislation. Jim Allister , the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice , has long been calling Robinson and McGuinness "the joint first ministers", to highlight the joint nature of the office and to demonstrate his opposition to the power-sharing arrangements.
Following a referendum on the Belfast Agreement on 23 May 1998 and
On 6 November 2001, Mark Durkan (SDLP) became Deputy First Minister after Seamus Mallon's retirement. The Executive and the two positions were suspended between 15 October 2002 and 8 May 2007 following a breakdown in trust between the parties.
On 8 May 2007,
Paisley announced his intention to resign on 4 March 2008. His
deputy as DUP leader, Peter Robinson was ratified as Democratic
Unionist Party leader designate on 17 April 2008 and took office in
that role on 31 May 2008. As leader-designate of the largest
designated unionist party in the
Northern Ireland Assembly he was also
in effect the First Minister designate and became First Minister on 5
Separately, between 12 February 2000 and 30 May 2000, and 15
October 2002 and 8 May 2007, however, devolution was suspended, and
along with it the offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister.
Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister became the
responsibility of the Secretary of State for
FIRST MINISTERS AND DEPUTY FIRST MINISTERS
FIRST MINISTER OF NORTHERN IRELAND DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER OF NORTHERN IRELAND GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
Name (Birth–Death) Constituency PORTRAIT TERM OF OFFICE Name (Birth–Death) Constituency PORTRAIT TERM OF OFFICE
DAVID TRIMBLE (1944–) Upper Bann 1 July 1998 1 July 2001
SEAMUS MALLON (1936–) Newry and Armagh 1 July 1998 6 November 2001 First Executive 1998
Reg Empey was acting First Minister during this interval.
6 November 2001 14 October 2002
MARK DURKAN (born 1960) Foyle 6 November 2001 14 October 2002
IAN PAISLEY (1926–2014) North Antrim 8 May 2007 5 June 2008
MARTIN MCGUINNESS (1950–2017) Mid Ulster 8 May 2007 20 September 2011 Second Executive 2007
PETER ROBINSON (1948–) Belfast East 5 June 2008 11 January 2010
3 February 2010 10 September 2015
Third Executive 2011
John O\'Dowd was acting deputy First Minister during this interval.
31 October 2011 9 January 2017
20 October 2015 11 January 2016
ARLENE FOSTER (1970–) Fermanagh and South Tyrone 11 January 2016 9 January 2017 Fourth Executive 2016
DIRECT RULE FIRST MINISTERS
During the periods of suspension, the Secretaries of State for
NAME PHOTO PARTY TERM START TERM END
Labour 14 October 2002 24 October 2002
Labour 24 October 2002 6 May 2005
Labour 6 May 2005 8 May 2007
LIVING FORMER FIRST MINISTERS AND DEPUTY FIRST MINISTERS
There are three living former first ministers and two living former deputy first ministers, not including those who served as acting:
NAME PARTY TERM OF OFFICE DATE OF BIRTH
Peter Robinson DUP 2008–2016 (1948-12-29) 29 December 1948 (age 68)
DEPUTY FIRST MINISTERS
NAME PARTY TERM OF OFFICE DATE OF BIRTH
Seamus Mallon SDLP 1998–2001 (1936-08-17) 17 August 1936 (age 80)
Mark Durkan SDLP 2001–2002 (1960-06-26) 26 June 1960 (age 57)
Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
List of current heads of government in the UK and dependencies
Northern Ireland Executive
Junior Minister (Northern Ireland)
* List of government ministers in
* ^ "Members\' Salaries 2013-2014". Members' Expenses. Northern
Ireland Assembly. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
* ^ "Section 2.2". Ministerial Code.
* Office of the First