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Logo of the Northern Ireland Executive

The Northern Ireland Executive is the executive arm of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the devolved legislature for Northern Irelandmarker. It is answerable to the Assembly and was established according to the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. It is referred to in the legislation as the Executive Committee of the Assembly.

The executive consists of a First Minister and deputy First Minister (a diarchy) and various ministers with individual portfolios and remits. The Assembly elects the members of the Executive. It is one of three devolved governments in the United Kingdommarker, the others being the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government.



In contrast with Westminster System cabinets, which generally need only be backed by a majority of legislators, ministerial positions in the Northern Ireland Executive are allocated to all of those parties with significant representation in the Assembly. The number of ministries to which each party is entitled is determined by the D'Hondt system. In effect, major parties cannot be excluded from participation in government, and power-sharing is enforced by the system. The Executive can not function if either of the two largest parties refuse to take part, as these parties are allocated the First Minister and deputy First Minister positions. However, other parties are not required to enter the Executive even if they are entitled to do so; instead, they can choose to go into opposition if they wish. There were some calls for the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Ulster Unionist Party to do just this after the 2007 Assembly elections, but ultimately the two parties chose to take the seats in the Executive to which they were entitled.


Each of the three elections since the Assembly was created in 1998 has resulted in an Executive or potential Executive consisting of the four largest Northern Irish parties - the Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Ulster Unionist Party - though the number of ministries allotted to each has waxed and waned with their varying electoral fortunes. The Executive first officially took power on December 2, 1999, but has been suspended on various occasions, the last effective from 15 October, 2002 until 8 May, 2007, as the Ulster Unionist Party, then holding the office of First Minister, walked out after a high-profile Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation into an alleged IRA spy ring. No convictions resulted. While it was suspended, the functions the Executive exercised reverted to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Executive Committee

On midnight of 7 May 2007, control of Northern Ireland was transferred from the Northern Ireland Office to the Executive of the currently elected Assembly. They were appointed by the Assembly on 8 May 2007.
Department Minister Party
First Minister     Peter Robinson
Deputy First Minister     Martin McGuinness
Enterprise, Trade and Investment     Arlene Foster
Finance & Personnel     Sammy Wilson
Regional Development     Conor Murphy
Educationmarker     Caitríona Ruane
Employment and Learning     Sir Reg Empey
Environment     Edwin Poots
Culture, Arts & Leisure     Nelson McCausland
Health, Social Services & Public Safety     Michael McGimpsey
Agriculture     Michelle Gildernew
Social Development     Margaret Ritchie

Two Junior Ministers from the Office of First Minister and deputy First Minister also attend cabinet meetings. The two junior ministers come from the partys of the FM and deputy FM.

Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister Minister Party
Junior Minister     Robin Newton
Junior Minister     Gerry Kelly


  1. Northern Ireland Assembly Official Records

See also

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