NEW Deputy First Minister John O’Dowd has said he is “honoured” to represent Upper Bann.
The Sinn Fein MLA took on the position on Tuesday (September 20) after Martin McGuinness announced his candidacy for the Republic’s Presidency.
He will stay on as Deputy First Minister on a temporary basis for a six-week period.
Mr O’Dowd, who will also keep his education portfolio, insisted that it will be “business as usual”.
“I intend to work in a constructive way with Peter Robinson and will carry on the work Martin has been doing,” he said.
“They have been working together for a long time and have inevitably built up a relationship.
“We have significant work in front of us which needs to be completed, and I will be carrying on the mannerisms of Martin McGuinness as we do so.”
Mr O’Dowd stated that he will take only an “average wage”, but did not disclose what that would be.
He said: “I will not be gaining any extra financial reward for taking on this new role.
“I didn’t enter politics for monetary gain. I’m grateful to have a wage, as there are many out there who don’t.
“I’m not able to reveal my exact wage, as that would reveal the pay of others.”
Mr O’Dowd said his party colleague’s decision to enter the presidential race added excitement to the campaign.
“It was dull as dishwater before he entered,” said Mr O’Dowd.
“The campaign has to have substance, and Martin will be standing on the platform of a new republic.
“We need to have a national conversation about where our country’s destiny lies, and that’s a good platform to be on.”
He continued: “When Martin announced that he would be running, Gerry Adams asked me if I would fill in as Deputy First Minister and I said I would.
“I was honoured to take the position.”
Despite simultaneously taking on two of the most important jobs in Stormont, Mr O’Dowd insisted that it was achievable in the short term.
He said: “I will be doing both jobs for six weeks, which I think is achievable.
“Over a longer period, however, the jobs could not be doubled up, as they are both very important departments.
“My priorities over the coming period will be to finalise our programme for government, push through with RPA (Review of Public Administration) and, of course, the economy.
“We have had a heavy deficit forced on us as a result of the British Government’s cuts, but these are the challenges which lie ahead.”
Mr O’Dowd joined Sinn Fein when he was 18-years-old and was first elected to Craigavon Borough Council in 1997.
“My first political involvement was selling the party’s paper, An Phoblacht, door-to-door.
“I became involved with Sinn Fein because of the conflict at the time.
“I was attracted by the party’s noble goal of making changes and I believed they had a vision for the future.”
He continued: “I have been humbled by the well wishes of people across Upper Bann. People here like to see locals doing well.
“I have always had the objective of promoting Upper Bann. I’m proud of where I’m from and proud to represent my constituency.”