With the Assembly and Executive Review Committee's First Report into the devolution of policing and justice now through the Assembly and the realisation from some that there may still be a considerable amount of time before powers are transferred, the rumour mill up at Stormont as to who could be in line for the Justice Minister continues to revolve.
We can presume that the Minister will be elected on a cross community vote in the Assembly, given that this recommendation has now been passed. This essentially means it will be fall to whoever the DUP and Sinn Féin decide to support. As we know, both these parties have ruled themselves out of the running until 2012 when the sunset clause kicks in (the sunset clause is something that we might hear a lot about in the 2011 elections, I can see the TUV manifesto now, "the sun is setting on the DUP's justice plans" perhaps?).
The first rumour was that Alliance could be offered the job and a trio of names entered the fray: David Ford, Naomi Long and Stephen Farry. Of these Ford was the most likely; being leader of a small party and allowing a party colleague to take a ministerial position when offered is generally not considered a sensible political move. Now, however, the chatter has moved away from talk of Alliance, specifically after a marked relaxation in the Sinn Féin camp over a possible SDLP choice.
The SDLP long argued the position was rightfully theirs given they were next in line under d'hondt. Not strictly true in my opinion given that d'hondt could simply be run again from the start, guaranteeing the SDLP another ministry, but not necessarily this ministry. A name oft mentoned was Alban Maginness who is now running from Europe. This doesn't necessarily rule him out, given that he may well not be elected in June and be left free to position himself for the role. Another, much more unlikely, name offered in some sections of the media has been Alex Attwood - (I would be very surprised to say the least!)
The latest name I have heard mentioned, not from an SDLP source I may add, is Margaret Ritchie. Switching her from DSD would certainly be an interesting option, would further secure the South Down Westminster seat (although I would accept that this is probably won already) and would in some sense be another shot across the bow of loyalist paramilitaries, who after the withdrawal of CTI funding, now see her as the wicked witch.
If the SDLP is to be offered the job (and I haven't mentioned the possibility of the UUP in this post) then it would seem folly for the Party Leader not to take up the position. Durkan has received some criticism for not taking the DSD portfolio first time round and his leadership would surely be put into question if he bypassed himself for the new post.
A quick mention of the UUP - I suppose Danny Kennedy would be the most obvious choice. And as no threat to a DUP Westminster seat in Newry and Armagh he might be palatable for the larger unionist party. Perhaps a deal will be forged with Sinn Féin that a unionist will take the position first, with a nationalist minister following up in 2012?
I suppose the flurry of names suggests that nobody really knows!