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How does Stormont work?

Last week the Northern Ireland Assembly and executive were restored after three years of political deadlock.

Since then, political parties and officials have been working to get the institutions operating as they did before devolution collapsed.

That means appointing new ministers and establishing committees, as well as electing a new speaker.

BBC News NI has a guide to who’s who at Stormont, and what their roles involve.

First Minister: Arlene Foster

She’s been leader of the DUP for more than four years, but was first minister for just 12 months before Stormont collapsed due to a row over her party’s handling of a green energy scandal.

This time Mrs Foster faces a new set of challenges, as she heads the executive alongside Michelle O’Neill, who replaces the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister.

The pair have previously been political opponents but were pictured smiling together as they visited a hospital on Wednesday.

However, will the laughter last as they start to tackle tough issues like health, education and Brexit?

Deputy First Minister: Michelle O’Neill

She is no stranger to the assembly, having done stints as both agriculture and health minister in executives gone by.

But now Ms O’Neill has to show she can lead Sinn Féin in the assembly and share power with the DUP.

Along with Mrs Foster, the Sinn Féin vice-president will spend much of her time based at the Executive Office in Stormont Castle.

She is known for being the fastest-talking assembly member, so staff in the Hansard team will have to type faster than normal when Ms O’Neill appears at deputy first minister’s questions.

Speaker: Alex Maskey

His experience as an amateur boxer will come in handy as he attempts to control events in the assembly chamber.

The veteran Sinn Féin politician is leaving the blue benches and will instead oversee proceedings, as well as represent the assembly when VIPs visit.

Mr Maskey’s election as speaker wasn’t without controversy though: the SDLP claimed there had been cross-party understanding to support its candidate but the DUP agreed to vote for Sinn Féin.

He has already cracked the whip, accusing an SDLP MLA of “insulting” him during a debate in the chamber and has warned the parties he will sanction anyone thought to breach conduct.

Health Minister: Robin Swann

The former Ulster Unionist leader has stated that he didn’t expect his party would be taking on the health brief in this new executive.

The DUP, Sinn Féin and SDLP all got to pick departments before the UUP and it seems none of them wanted to take on the biggest portfolio, meaning it has ended up in UUP hands.

Mr Swann has a vested interest in this area: his son was born with a heart defect and he has committed to tackling the backlog of problems in the health sector.

His first decision was to restore pay parity for NI health workers with those in Great Britain, but sorting out safe staffing levels will be a bigger task.

Finance Minister: Conor Murphy

Mr Murphy is the second Sinn Féin finance minister, but holding the Stormont purse strings won’t be without its woes.

He has already been fighting back against the government’s funding plan for NI as part of the new deal – saying the extra £1bn is an “act of bad faith” and more money is needed so the executive can commit to tackling more issues.

His department is now carrying out detailed costs of all the pledges in the power-sharing deal – but ultimately he may have to tell other executive ministers to review their priorities if no more money is forthcoming.

Justice Minister: Naomi Long

Mrs Long has been a councillor, an MLA, MP, party leader and MEP – but this is her first outing as an executive minister.

Alliance held the justice role from 2010-2016, and reclaimed it after a cross-community vote in the assembly to select the new justice minister.

It is a wide-ranging brief with responsibility for policing, prisons and tackling cross-border crime.

Mrs Long is still an MEP until the UK leaves the EU, scheduled for 31 January, but she is not claiming an MLA salary or expenses until her other role ends.

Education Minister: Peter Weir

The long-time DUP MLA had only been education minister for eight months when the assembly collapsed in 2017.

Clearly the party wanted the brief again, given it had been held by Sinn Féin for many years prior to that – and so Mr Weir has returned.

He made the first ministerial statement of the new assembly, announcing a new school building improvement scheme for 18 schools.

A former chief whip, Mr Weir is known for having an eye for detail and is clearly keen to get back to where he left off.

Economy Minister: Diane Dodds

Another familiar face but new to the executive, Mrs Dodds is also leaving Brussels and returning to Parliament Buildings.

She was co-opted into the Upper Bann constituency after Carla Lockhart became an MP in December’s general election.

Economy is another big brief: Mrs Dodds is dealing with economic and energy policy, higher education and employment rights.

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister: Edwin Poots

It had been thought the former health minister would take that portfolio back, but the DUP stalwart was left with agriculture as the last pick.

That suits him fine: Mr Poots is a farmer and will likely get stuck into the mass of issues his department deals with.

He will also be in charge of dealing with an NI-wide response to climate change and environmental matters.

Infrastructure Minister: Nichola Mallon

The deputy leader of the SDLP started as she means to go on in this role: she arrived at her first executive meeting in an electric car.

Her portfolio focuses on dealing with roads, water systems and improving methods of sustainable transport.

Ms Mallon has never held an executive seat before and will also lead the SDLP’s assembly team now that party leader Colum Eastwood is an MP.

Communities Minister: Deirdre Hargey

Sinn Féin’s Deirdre Hargey has been thrown into the deep end, having only become an MLA last month she’s now a minister too.

The communities department will see her tasked with overseeing cultural and language issues, sports and arts funding and the programme marking the centenary of Northern Ireland’s formation in 2021.

Junior Ministers: Gordon Lyons and Declan Kearney

Both men are relative newcomers to the assembly, but have proven loyal MLAs in their respective parties over the past few years.

They’ve been rewarded with a promotion to the executive office, often viewed as a stepping stone to greater positions of responsibility.

As junior ministers, the pair are jointly accountable to the first and deputy first ministers.

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