Northern Ireland: How the 12-member executive committee might look

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SPECULATION has already started on who is to hold office in a new Northern Ireland executive committee, rather along the lines of a fantasy football league, writes David McKittrick.

Under the new agreement the executive will have up to 12 members, with ten heads of departments serving under a first minister and deputy first minister. These last two are most likely to be Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and SDLP leader John Hume, as heads of the two largest parties.

Other chairs will be shared out proportionally. The Rev Ian Paisley would have the next choice of office but is expected to boycott the entire executive.

If Sinn Fein decides to participate then they will be next in the pecking order, which presumably means that Gerry Adams can ask to be, say, minister for the economy. After that Lord Alderdice, who heads the middle of the road Alliance party, will get a ministry.

Other possible members include David Trimble's deputy, John Taylor; John Hume's deputy Seamus Mallon; and Martin McGuinness or Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein. Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis and former SDLP MP Joe Hendron are other candidates.

A seat may could be found for one of the smaller parties - most likely going to David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist party.