Announcement on attorney general appointment 'soon'


Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he and the first minister hoped to make an announcement soon on the future of the post of attorney general, on 27 January 2014.

He was replying to a question from the SDLP's Dolores Kelly regarding the reappointment of the current attorney general, John Larkin, whose term of office was due to end in May 2014.

"We have had a discussion about that in the course of the last seven days and we do hope to be in a position very shortly to make an announcement," Mr McGuinness said.

Anna Lo of Alliance wanted to know if the appointment process would "take into account the controversial and sometimes unhelpful, or inappropriate, comments, remarks that the attorney general has made in the past few years".

Mr McGuinness said he was not sure which remarks the member was referring to.

He said he had made clear in his initial reply that there had been times when people had voiced objections to what they considered to be the attorney general's involvement in areas that he should not have been involved in.

"We as an Executive have to absolutely respect the independence of his office," Mr McGuinness said.

The deputy first minister accused the DUP's Paul Frew of "a very low attempt to to score a political point".

Mr Frew, in a follow-up to a question on the cost of the Haass talks, called on Mr McGuinness to give all the information he had on "the Teebane atrocity" to the police.

Eight workmen were killed in the IRA attack on a minibus at Teebane crossroads in County Tyrone in January 1992.

The deputy first minister said he had "absolutely no knowledge whatsoever" about the event.

In reply to a question about the next steps in the Haass process, Mr McGuiness said the Executive party leaders had met twice and were due to meet again the following day.

"That will probably be a lengthier meeting than the first two," he said.

Mr McGuinness added that it was "incumbent upon us to be positive" and that "we have tackled even more difficult issues than this in the past".

Health Minister Edwin Poots was asked about the difficulties of recruiting doctors in the Southern and Western Trusts.

The minister said there were now greater difficulties around sourcing middle-ranking doctors than junior doctors.

He said that European regulations meant that there were restrictions on bringing in doctors from Commonwealth countries.

Mr Poots said he was "not in a position to force people to work in particular areas".

He noted that many more women were now training to be doctors, that the average retirement age for male GPs was 57, and for women it was 37.

The minister also replied to questions on cystic fibrosis, ovarian cancer and palliative care.

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