First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

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First Minister and deputy First Minister
Céad-Aire agus leas-Chéad-Aire
Heid Männystèr an Heid Männystèr depute
Incumbent
Vacant

since 14 June 2021
AppointerNorthern Ireland Assembly
Term lengthWhile commanding the confidence of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Inaugural holderDavid Trimble and Seamus Mallon
Formation2 December 1999
Salary£120,000 each (inc. MLA pay)[1]
WebsiteWebsite

The First Minister and the deputy First Minister (Irish: Céad-Aire agus an leas-Chéad-Aire, Ulster Scots: Heid Männystèr an tha Heid Männystèr depute),[2] (FM/dFM for short), are jobs in the Northern Ireland Government. The First Minister is not more important than the deputy First Minister. The two positions are a diarchy, meaning they have equal power; both are nominated and appointed by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Currently, the position is held by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP) and Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Fein). Before however, the incumbents were Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party as First Minister and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin as deputy First Minister.[3]

Election[change | change source]

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are divided into two groups, Nationalists and Unionists (although there are also some independent or "Other" members).

The First Minister and the deputy First Minister are elected on a joint ticket. Under the St Andrews Agreement, the Leader of the largest party nominates the First Minister, and the leader of the next largest party that is in the other group nominates the deputy First Minister.

Their joint nomination has to obtain an overall majority in the Assembly along with a majority of both designated Nationalist MLAs and designated Unionist MLAs. Designated Other MLAs also vote.

This diarchy was created to enable the leaders of the main unionist and nationalist parties to work together as a team jointly representing both communities.

"Deputy" becomes "deputy"[change | change source]

The first two holders of the office now known as "deputy First Minister", namely Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan, were both referred to during their periods of office as "Deputy First Minister", with a capital D. This version 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 began asking the Assembly's Hansard team to replace the capital D with a lower-case d, deputy was spelled this way in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the legislation which created the office.

It was neither Mr McGuinness nor his advisers who asked for the change. The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William Hay, ordered the change and the capital D was dropped from Hansard references. The Office of the First and deputy First Minister still uses both versions of Mr McGuinness' title on their website, and their archive of press releases has been changed, but the capital D still appears in some places, and a spokesman confirmed on 20 March 2008 that the office has "no plans" to change the OFMDFM logo. However, the Assembly committee that looks at their work is now listed as the "Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister". It was decided that Mr McGuinness should be the deputy First Minister, unless all the other letters in the title are in capitals. Confusion is not completely resolved however; if Mr McGuinness writes to the Assembly committee, 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.[4]

First Ministers and deputy First Ministers[change | change source]

Parties

  Ulster Unionist Party   Social Democratic and Labour Party   Democratic Unionist Party   Sinn Féin

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
(1944–2022)
Upper Bann
David Trimble.jpg 1 July 1998 1 July 2001 Seamus Mallon
(1936–2020)
Newry and Armagh
Seamus Mallon speaking at John Hewitt International Summer School 2017.png 1 July 1998 6 November 2001 First Executive 1998
Reg Empey
(b. 1947)
Belfast East
Official portrait of Lord Empey crop 2, 2019.jpg 1 July 2001
(acting)
6 November 2001
David Trimble
(1944-2022)
Upper Bann
David Trimble.jpg 6 November 2001 14 October 2002 Mark Durkan
(b. 1960)
Foyle
MarkDurkan.jpg 6 November 2001 14 October 2002
Offices vacant
2003
Ian Paisley
(1926–2014)
North Antrim
DrIanPaisley.jpg 8 May 2007 5 June 2008 Martin McGuinness
(1950–2017)
Mid Ulster
Martin McGuinness in Jan 2017 (cropped).jpg 8 May 2007 20 September 2011 Second Executive 2007
Peter Robinson
(b. 1948)
Belfast East
Peter Robinson MLA DUP.jpg 5 June 2008 11 January 2010
Arlene Foster
(b. 1970)
Fermanagh and South Tyrone
MLA Arlene Foster.jpg 11 January 2010
(acting)
3 February 2010
Peter Robinson
(b. 1948)
Belfast East
Peter Robinson MLA DUP.jpg 3 February 2010 10 September 2015
John O'Dowd
(b. 1967)
Upper Bann
John O'Dowd 2021.jpg 20 September 2011
(acting)
31 October 2011 Third Executive 2011
Martin McGuinness
(1950–2017)
Mid Ulster
Martin McGuinness in Jan 2017 (cropped).jpg 31 October 2011 9 January 2017
Arlene Foster
(b. 1970)
Fermanagh and South Tyrone
MLA Arlene Foster.jpg 10 September 2015
(acting)
20 October 2015
Peter Robinson
(b. 1948)
Belfast East
Peter Robinson MLA DUP.jpg 20 October 2015 11 January 2016
Arlene Foster
(b. 1970)
Fermanagh and South Tyrone
MLA Arlene Foster.jpg 11 January 2016 9 January 2017 Fourth Executive 2016
Offices vacant
2017
Arlene Foster
(b. 1970)
Fermanagh and South Tyrone
MLA Arlene Foster.jpg 11 January 2020 14 June 2021 Michelle O'Neill
(b. 1977)
Mid Ulster
Michelle O'Neill (cropped from Martin McGuinness, Michelle O'Neill, Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams).jpg 11 January 2020 14 June 2021 Fifth Executive
Paul Givan
(b. 1981)
Lagan Valley
Paul Givan MLA.jpg 17 June 2021 4 February 2022 17 June 2021 4 February 2022
Offices vacant
2022

References[change | change source]

  1. "Members' Salaries 2013-2014". Members' Expenses. Northern Ireland Assembly. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  2. Policing and Justice Process Paper Archived 2009-01-08 at the Wayback Machine Northern Ireland Executive
  3. Devolved Government - Ministers and their departments Archived 2007-08-22 at the Wayback Machine Northern Ireland Executive
  4. Martin's D-lemma: lowering the case of the minister's title took top aides weeks Belfast Telegraph, 21 March 2008

Other websites[change | change source]