Northern Ireland

DUP 'in-out' minister Jonathan Bell remains in post

Stormont statue
Image caption The DUP has been moving its ministers in and out of the Northern Ireland Executive

DUP Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has been continuously in post since Friday despite his party's Stormont "in-out" policy, it has emerged.

The party has been moving its ministers in and out of the executive after the murder of Kevin McGuigan sparked a political crisis over the IRA's status.

Last month, the government appointed an independent panel to assess the current status of paramilitary organisations.

On Tuesday, MLAs again criticised the DUP's "in-out" tactic.

'Priorities'

During an assembly debate on workforce planning in the health service, Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay said the enterprise minister had been at work for the past four days while Health Minister Simon Hamilton had not.

"I don't know what the priorities are within the DUP, but it is becoming increasingly clear that health is not a number-one priority," said Mr McKay.

Last week, Northern Ireland's Acting First Minister Arlene Foster told the BBC that the DUP could drop its policy when a report is published on paramilitary activity.

She is standing in for DUP leader Peter Robinson, who stood aside as first minister while warning it would not be "business as usual" at Stormont until the issue of paramilitaries was dealt with.

She said: "If we believe there has been substantial progress in relation to it, then we will seriously consider making that move."

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