“I am not clear as to whether that means that a replacement will be appointed.”

With the continuing legal challenge to the appointment of four Victims Commissioners – and do the Alliance Party still view that as “a damaging fudge”? – Mike Nesbitt’s resignation from the Commission poses a potential problem. As the Belfast Telegraph reports, the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, told the Assembly today that they “will not be appointing a new commissioner at this time” and they “will give the matter of the number of commissioners careful consideration”. Of course, they’d have to agree on any replacement Commissioner…From Hansard

2. Mr Lunn asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister when a new victims and survivors’ commissioner will be appointed. (AQO 836/10)

The deputy First Minister: We received Michael Nesbitt’s resignation from the Commission for Victims and Survivors on 17 February 2010. Members will recall that we framed the legislation that was introduced to establish the Victims’ Commission in such a way as to allow for flexibility in its make-up. We did that because we knew that there was a significant backlog of work to be addressed and because we know that the needs of victims and survivors change over time. We will, therefore, take time to consider how the Commission can best take forward its work programme.

I thank Mr Nesbitt for his contribution to the work of the Victims’ Commission, and I wish him well in the future.

Mr Lunn: I am not clear as to whether that means that a replacement will be appointed. In the event that there is, can we expect an open and transparent selection process that is based on ability and qualifications, or will it be a case of going through the motions and appointing an Ulster Unionist?

The deputy First Minister: The Member takes a cynical view of how we deal with such important matters. At the beginning of the process in 2008, four individuals were identified as having the skills and knowledge base to address the backlog of work in the victims and survivors’ sector. We will give careful consideration to the matter of the number of commissioners, in light of the work required within their corporate and business plan. We will consider the views of the existing commissioners, but, at this time, it is too early to come to any conclusions. The First Minister and I will consider all options, but we will not be appointing a new commissioner at this time.