Stormont Assembly votes in new team of Ministers

 

THE STORMONT Assembly has voted in a new Executive ministerial team in accordance with the d’Hondt mechanism for allocating departments on a powersharing basis.

The DUP retained the key finance department and its nominees opted for three of the key spending departments including enterprise, social development and health.

The party retained the ministerial team which left office in advance of the May 5th elections. Sammy Wilson remains at finance, while Arlene Foster stays at enterprise. However Nelson McCausland moves from culture to social development.

One new face joins the DUP ministerial line-up. Strangford Assembly member Jonathan Bell becomes the new junior minister at the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, replacing Robin Newton.

Peter Robinson said yesterday the DUP ministerial team would not remain in place throughout the expected five-year term of the incoming Executive.

Strangford Assembly member Simon Hamilton will take over from Sammy Wilson in finance, while South Down MLA Jim Wells will become minister of health in two years’ time.

Sinn Féin has opted for a new-look ministerial line-up.

Martin McGuinness remains as Deputy First Minister, but outgoing ministers Caitríona Ruane, Michelle Gildernew and Conor Murphy are all replaced.

Upper Bann Assembly member John O’Dowd takes over at education and will lead the party’s reform of schools. Mid Ulster Assembly member Michelle O’Neill takes over at agriculture, where party colleague Ms Gildernew was widely seen to have been a success.

Carál Ní Chuilín is promoted to Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, the smallest department.

The Ulster Unionists are standing by former deputy leader Danny Kennedy. This time, however he moves from employment and learning to regional development and takes over authority for a series of expensive infrastructure improvement, many of them cross-Border in nature.

The party has lost the right to nominate a second minister following its loss of seats in the Assembly election.

The SDLP is sticking with its outgoing Minister Alex Attwood. However, he moves from social development to environment, where he will assume responsibility for reform of public administration, the redrawing of local government and planning issues.

The Alliance wins the right to nominate a second minister following its improved showing on May 5th.

Dr Stephen Farry becomes Minister at employment and learning and will immediately face the shortfall in third-level education and demands for undergraduate fees of at least £6,000 per year.

Alliance leader David Ford is again appointed Minister for Justice under a separate system outside the d’Hondt mechanism. He was again appointed by a cross-community vote of the whole Assembly.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister provoked the only controversy of the debate. He spoke against the appointment of Mr Ford for a second term, ridiculing him “a place man of the DUP and Sinn Féin in this House”.

“He hasn’t disappointed them,” Mr Allister mocked, “But he has disappointed others.”

Recalling blunders in the North’s prison system, Mr Allister accused Mr Ford of “losing more prisoners than I’ve lost elections. That takes some beating.” He further criticised the unique mechanism for filling the justice post.

Referring to the UUP total of seats and comparing it to those held by Alliance, he added: “Sixteen equals one [ministry], while eight equals two.” That was “a commentary on the gross inequalities” of the Assembly.