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Your new NI Executive

Following the agreement and publication of New Decade, New Approach all the parties agreed to enter Government which led to the running of the d'Hondt process on Saturday last. The result is a 5 party Executive with some new faces, some returning experienced Ministers and a general sense of cautious optimism.

The Assembly mandate has two years left having been elected in 2017. The new Ministerial team, profiled below, face many challenges and they set about their business.

To mark the formation of the new NI Executive, MW Advocate is holding as special event on Friday in partnership the NI Chamber of Commerce. Your Assembly and You will look at the priorities of the new Ministers and the role business and the third sector have in tackling the issues. 

You can register to attend Your Assembly and You here.

First Minister - Arlene Foster, DUP
The DUP leader once again takes up the role of First Minister, as she did during the last mandate of the NI Executive. The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA is one of the most experienced members of the Executive, having held ministerial positions since 2007, including Minister for the Environment, Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment and Minister for Finance & Personnel. The first major test for the First Minister will be the publication of the RHI report, expected within the first few months of the new term. 
Deputy First Minister - Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin

Like Arlene Foster, Michelle O’Neill has held a number of ministerial posts, including Minister for Health in the last Executive, but this will be her first time in the deputy First Minister role. The Mid Ulster MLA was first elected to the NI Assembly in 2007, and had previously been a member of Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council, where she served a year as Mayor. Since 2018 Michelle has been Vice-President of Sinn Féin
Economy - Diane Dodds, DUP

Diane Dodds election as Minister for the Economy comes just days after she was co-opted into the NI Assembly to replace Carla Lockhart, who is now MP for Upper Bann. Diane was previously MLA for West Belfast between 2003 and 2007. In 2009 she was elected to the European Parliament, a position she has held until now. The Economy brief will hold a number of challenges,  not least the impact of Brexit on businesses, but it will also be in change of the development of a new Energy strategy. 
Education - Peter Weir, DUP
Peter Weir returns to the Eduction brief, which he held before the collapse of the NI Assembly and NI Executive in 2017. The Strangford MLA is one of the few members who has been elected in each mandate since the NI Assembly was formed in 1998, although he represented North Down between 1998 and 2017. Initially as an Independent Unionist, Weir joined the DUP in 2002. With schools facing considerable budgetary issues, the Minister will find himself competing with Executive colleagues to secure additional funding. 
Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs - Edwin Poots, DUP

Climate Change and the impact of Brexit on the farming community are just two issues that new Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots will have to get to grips with in the coming weeks, but, as a Farmer, he already has a considerable understanding of the issues. He has considerable executive experience, having held the posts of Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Health. 
Finance - Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin 

Conor Murphy becomes the second Sinn Fein member to hold the Finance portfolio, following Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who held the role in the last Executive. With considerable amounts of additional money being talked about - if not completely committed yet - to support the new Executive, he will be key in delivering major projects across all departments. A long standing and senior figure in Sinn Fein, Murphy was MP for Newry & Armagh between 2005 and 2015, when he retuned to the Assembly. 
Communities - Deirdre Hargey, Sinn Féin

Like Diane Dodds, Deirdre Hargey becomes a Minister just days after being co-opted into the NI Assembly as the new South Belfast MLA, but her experience comes as being a member of Belfast City Council, where she was Lord Mayor in 2018/19. Widely regarded as a string performer, as Communities Minister Deirdre will be tasked with addressing social and affordable housing issues, as well as welfare reform and the extension of the mitigations. Language also falls under the Communities brief.
Infrastructure - Nichola Mallon, SDLP

The Deputy Leader of the SDLP was first elected to the NI Assembly in 2016, having been a member of Belfast City Council since 2010, where she was Lord Mayor in 2014/15. The Department for Infrastructure oversees planning and roads, and so has a major role in some major infrastructure projects. Alongside the development of the A5, A6 and York Street Interchange, Nichola will also decide on the planning application for Casement Park. 
Health - Robin Swann, UUP

Health will probably be the most high profile and challenging Ministerial post. First on Robin Swann’s to do list is the issue of the Nurses strike and pay parity, before moving on to tackle waiting lists. And then he will have to look at the issues of sustainability and service provision for all health services in NI. This is the first ministerial post for the North Antrim MLA, who was leader of the UUP until last year, but he has been a high profile campaigner on health issues, including the establishment of the All Island Cardiac Paediatric Network. 
Justice - Naomi Long, Alliance 

Justice is the only Ministry not allocated by the d’Hondt process - whereby the number of seats a party wins dictates the number of Executive positions. As it requires Cross Community support, this position has been given to Alliance Party leader, Noami Long, who has now left the European Parliament, which she was elected to last year. Naomi has been Lord Mayor of Belfast, a MLA an MP, and MEP, and now she is a Minister. The Justice portfolio will have a number of challenges in the coming years, including legacy issues and funding for policing. 
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