Northern Ireland Election 2016

NI Assembly election: Negotiations over programme for government to begin on Tuesday

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Media captionWhat's the make-up of the new assembly?

Negotiations over a programme for government for the new Northern Ireland Executive are to begin on Tuesday.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin remain the two biggest parties in the assembly after Thursday's election.

The first meeting of the new assembly is to take place on Thursday.

It is expected that MLAs will re-appoint Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness as first and deputy first ministers.

Image copyright Eamonn McCann and Gerry Carroll
Image caption People Before Profit MLAs Eamonn McCann and Gerry Carroll were among the new arrivals

A new speaker is also expected to be elected on Thursday, replacing Mitchel McLaughlin who announced his retirement before the election.

DUP leader Mrs Foster said: "We have set ourselves 14 days to have discussion around the programme for government. That doesn't necessarily mean that we will use the 14 days. I hope that we don't use those 14 days and we can get on with the job of work that we have been set by the people."

Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin, said: "We will meet all of the parties - the Alliance Party, the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP - in the morning and begin the discussions around the programme for government.

"It will all be very inclusive."

Smaller parties in the assembly say they will base decisions on whether or not to go into opposition on the outcome of the talks.

Once a programme for government has been agreed, an executive will be formed.

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Image caption Arlene Foster's DUP won 38 seats to remain the largest in the assembly
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Image caption Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said programme for government talks had been going on "for some months"

The DUP maintained a total of 38 seats which it held in the last assembly, while Sinn Féin lost one and now holds 28.

The Ulster Unionists have 16 seats, the SDLP lost two and now has 12 and the Alliance Party has eight.

Image caption New Green Party MLA Claire Bailey has been given the desk that was previously used by UKIP's David McNarry

Twenty-nine of the 108 MLAs are new to the assembly, including two from the People Before Profit Alliance, while the Green Party added a second seat to the one it previously held.

Mark Devenport, BBC News NI Political Editor

Stormont has a "first day of term" feel today and that is not just because a group of primary school children were being shown around the great hall.

The new People Before Profit MLA, Eamonn McCann, blamed his late arrival on the poor transport infrastructure - he said he would much prefer to commute to Stormont by train than by car, but claimed he would have to get a 06:00 train - something he described as ridiculous.

The Green Party's Clare Bailey found a large pile of old unopened Hansards in her new office. In line with her party's policy, she will send the reports of Stormont debates for recycling and dispense with paper copies in future.

The first formal meeting in the assembly chamber is expected to take place on Thursday when the fresh batch of MLAs will be called upon to elect a new speaker.

Some parties have said they are concerned that the DUP and Sinn Féin have already created a draft document setting out what they hope to achieve.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) have said they will wait to see what is included within the programme for government before making a decision to either enter government or opposition.

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Media captionThe shape of the Northern Ireland Assembly

Mike Nesbitt, the UUP leader, said it was "partly the case" that any involvement in the executive from his party would depend on a briefing from the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland on the status or paramilitary groups.

He added that he wanted to see if the programme for government would "offer that joined-up approach to the big issues that are blighting our society" before deciding on the UUP's position.

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Image caption Mike Nesbitt said he wanted to see a "joined-up approach" to dealing with major issues

"Equally importantly, we [will need to] sense around the table a will among the parties who are going to be in government to work together to deliver it.

"If it is going to be a Sinn Féin-DUP carve-up, as it was at the end of the last mandate, then that is not attractive to me."

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Image caption David Ford said his Alliance Party will wait for the outcome of the talks before deciding on its position

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the negotiations would determine whether his party would go into government or opposition.

"We'll go in showing our good authority, we'll go in making proposals that work in the interests of people across Northern Ireland," he said.

"And if the process has been good and there are stronger outcomes than what the DUP and Sinn Féin have done in the past, then we will make a call."

Alliance Party leader David Ford said the previous executive had not worked together "in the sort of way you would expect of a coherent cabinet".

He added that his party would have to decide on any involvement in the new executive and whether there was a "worthwhile" programme for government.

"What's absolutely clear for us is we did not see the progress even towards the stated aim of the last programme for government - growing the economy - that we should have seen," he said.

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