Arlene Foster appoints Mervyn Storey to finance in first-day reshuffle

One of new Minister for Finance’s first tasks will be seeing through the budget for 2016-17

The North's new First Minister, Arlene Foster, used her first full day in office to appoint North Antrim Assembly member Mervyn Storey to fill her former post as Minister for Finance in the Executive.

In her first reshuffle, Ms Foster moved Mr Storey from the Department of Social Development to finance with DUP chairman Lord (Maurice) Morrow taking over social development.

One of Mr Storey’s first tasks will be seeing through the budget for 2016-17.

He must also begin preparations for the devolution of corporation tax-setting powers to theExecutive. By 2018 corporation tax is due to be cut from 20 per cent to the same 12.5 per cent rate as the Republic to make the North more attractive for jobs investment.



“I will continue the work already under way to deliver this change needed to enhance our economic performance and benefit everyone in

Northern Ireland

, ” he said after his appointment.

“My priority, as the new finance minister, is to build on the agreed Executive budget as the foundation needed to put Northern Ireland on the right path to reforming and renewing our public services and stimulating economic growth,” added Mr Storey.

“The 2016-17 budget provides the stability that’s needed. It delivers for the people by protecting health and providing a boost for education and skills as well as funding major infrastructure projects for the next four years.”

Mr Storey (51) is from Ballymoney, Co Antrim and is married with three children. Lord Morrow (67) is from Ballygawley, Co Tyrone and is married with two children. Both are members of the Free Presbyterian Church while Mr Storey is viewed as a creationist in his beliefs.

Lord Morrow represents the same Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency as Ms Foster and previously served as social development minister in 2000-2001.

Meanwhile, DUP Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots has dismissed as "claptrap" claims that he was "sexist" after he said that Ms Foster's "most important job" was "that of a wife, mother and daughter".

In congratulating Ms Foster on her appointment as First Minister in the Assembly on Monday, Mr Poots said that it would be the “second most important job that she will ever take on”.

This prompted a flurry of online criticism that he was “sexist” and belittling of women.

Mr Poots, however, said that when he was previously appointed as minister for health he had similarly described it as the “second most important job” he had ever done. His most important job was that of “husband, father and son” because “family always comes first”.

Silly liberal types

“Some silly liberal types have attempted to misconstrue this as sexist. Arlene will make a great First Minister, not least because she cherishes family and its values,” said Mr Poots.

British prime minister David Cameron phoned Ms Foster yesterday to congratulate her on her appointment.

“The prime minister reflected on the milestone of the first female First Minister being appointed, as well as the ministerial experience and excellent working relationships which Ms Foster will bring to the role,” said a Downing Street spokesman.

“Ms Foster and the prime minister agreed on the importance of implementing the Fresh Start and Stormont House agreements,” he added.

While dealing with the past was one of the major issues that was not resolved in last November’s Fresh Start agreement, Ms Foster said yesterday that with the right will outstanding problems could be resolved.

Sinn Féin complained that the British government was not prepared to give commitments that it would release classified information in relation to British state killings during the Troubles and in relation to allegations of collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

“It is actually a very small issue that needs to be sorted out but a very important issue between Sinn Féin and the government,” said Ms Foster.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times