Martin McGuinness with his new Sinn Féin ministerial colleagues Chris Hazzard, Megan Fearon, Michelle O’Neill and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
By Ray O’Hanlon
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is Northern Ireland’s new finance minister.
He is part of the new power-sharing Executive at Stormont.
As a result of his appointment, Mr. Ó Muilleoir will be stepping aside from his role as publisher of the Irish Echo.
Ó Muilleoir is one of four Sinn Féin ministers in the new Executive which has emerged following the recent North general election.
The North’s new Justice Minister will be independent unionist MLA Claire Sugden, who succeeds Alliance leader David Ford.
First Minister Arlene Foster nominated party colleagues, Simon Hamilton (Economy), Peter Weir (Education), Paul Givan (Communities) and Michelle McIlveen (Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).
Sinn Fein’s ministerial nominees were announced on Tuesday by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with their respective ministries confirmed earlier today.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (Finance), Michelle O’Neill (Health), and Chris Hazzard (Infrastructure) will all take up positions in the new Executive.
Megan Fearon (SF) and Alastair Ross (DUP) were appointed Junior Ministers.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “I have a mandate to deliver a fresh start for people right across the North and that more than anything that means creating jobs, lifting families out of poverty, opening up access to further education to more young people and working on a positive cross-community and cross-border basis.
“We have come a long way since I entered Belfast City Council, to catcalls and worse in 1987, to today.
“But we are only starting and there is much, much more to do.
“My job will be to ensure we dramatically enhance the peace dividend to working class communities and deliver social justice for all.
“Of course, all of this is a huge challenge, especially given the opposition of the austerity ideologues in the Tory government, but I am confident a united, forward-looking Executive can combine with the community to transform our society.”
Before plunging into his new job, however, Minister Ó Muilleoir has a prior engagement to fulfill.
And that will be his attendance at next week’s New York/New Belfast conference at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan.
Meanwhile, the formation of the new North Executive has been welcomed by Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan.
Speaking from Donegal, where he welcomed Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall for a one-day visit, Minister Flanagan said: “I warmly welcome the formation of the new Executive in Northern Ireland today and wish all of the ministers well in their new portfolios.
“It is encouraging that a Justice Minister in Northern Ireland has again been appointed with the necessary cross-community vote of the Assembly. I wish Minister Sugden well in the Justice portfolio, which is particularly sensitive and carries great responsibility.
“Now that the new Executive has been formed, it is very important that the two governments and the Northern Ireland parties promptly re-engage to advance the full implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.
“In this respect, I look forward to early and significant progress on the establishment of the institutions to address the legacy of the past, on tackling paramilitarism, and advancing North-South cooperation.
“In regard to the latter, the forthcoming plenary meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council will provide an early opportunity to take stock of work underway and to advance progress in areas that provide mutual benefit to the people of both parts of the island.”
The full Northern Ireland Executive is: Executive Office – First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness; Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – Michelle McIlveen; Minister for the Department of Communities – Paul Givan; Minister for the Economy – Simon Hamilton; Minister for Education – Peter Weir; Minister for Finance – Máirtín Ó Muilleoir; Minister for Health – Michelle O’Neill; Minister for Infrastructure – Chris Hazzard; Minister for Justice – Clare Sugden; Junior Ministers in the Executive Office – Megan Fearon, Alastair Ross.