No change to first minister title if Sinn Féin tops Assembly poll, McDonald says

The titles of first and deputy first minister will not change if Sinn Féin wins the upcoming Assembly poll, Mary Lou McDonald has said.
No change to first minister title if Sinn Féin tops Assembly poll, McDonald says

By Dominic McGrath, PA

The titles of first and deputy first minister will not change if Sinn Féin wins the upcoming Assembly poll, Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Ms McDonald said on Thursday evening that Sinn Féin did not back a change in the titles of the joint office at the head of the Northern Ireland Executive to better reflect the equality between the first and deputy first minister.

It comes amid speculation that Sinn Féin could achieve a historic victory in the Northern Ireland Assembly election on May 5th, with former deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill claiming the title of first minister.

It would be the first time Sinn Féin has held the role.

In 2015, Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness suggested that the title could change to “joint office of first minister”.

But in an interview with the BBC, the Sinn Féin leader indicated that such an idea was no longer on the table.

“Martin didn’t get a very positive response to his proposal at the time,” Ms McDonald said.

“I would like to see proof positive that everyone involved is up for powersharing.”

Asked whether the idea of a “joint office” title could help encourage the DUP and other unionists to return to the Executive after the election, Ms McDonald said: “What I will do what and I have consistently said to unionist colleagues is that we need to demonstrate that what we have will actually be implemented.”

“I am not proposing that we change the job title,” she said during the interview.

She said that the “objective position” of her party was ensuring that what has been agreed between the Northern Ireland parties is implemented.

She said that she had no objection to anyone reflecting the joint nature of the office.

But she said that for around 20 years, Sinn Féin had served in that joint office.

She added: “Can political unionism, and can the DUP actually similarly serve and that’s a democratic test for them and one I hope they win.”

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