22 June 2009

Reshuffle of DUP Ministers in the North

Today the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the North has revealed the details of its ministerial reshuffle, following some criticism of 'double jobbing' politicians.

The decision to restructure the currently largest Unionist party in the Six Counties had been taken already more than a month ago (see my entry of May 26th), but the actual details were only announced this afternoon. And it appears that there have been some internal changes of mind since the reshuffle was first mooted.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds (left), who was expected to keep his post, is surprisingly stepping-down as the North's Finance Minister and will in the future concentrate on his position as an MP.
His colleague Gregory Campbell is - as expected - losing his job as Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure as well.

Former UUP star MP Jeffrey Donaldson (right), who defected to the DUP when the UUP began to decline, will leave his job as the junior minister in the North's First Minister's office, a position he only took over 16 months ago (when he replaced Ian Paisley Jr. who had been forced to resign over a scandal).

Sammy Wilson (left), who had been expected to leave the Northern administration as well, will actually be promoted, swapping his currently held Environment brief for the more senior job of Finance Minister.

Nelson McCausland (right), a Belfast MLA, is appointed as the new Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure, a rather sensitive job that is more difficult in a divided community like the Six Counties than one might assume.

Arlene Foster will keep her post as the North's Minister for Enterprise, and former Environment Minister Edwin Poots (left), who left the Northern cabinet some time ago under a cloud, is re-called to the front bench and re-appointed to his previous portfolio

The East-Belfast MLA Robin Newtown will replace Jeffrey Donaldson as junior minister to the First Minister.

The changes, which will come into effect after the current parliamentary term ends later this month, mean that the DUP has reduced the number of sitting MPs who also hold a minister's job in the Northern Assembly.

"I indicated at the time of my appointment as First Minister that I would make changes to the ministerial team during the summer of 2009," DUP leader Peter Robinson (right) stated during a press briefing in Belfast today.
"As a party we will continue to work in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland and I look forward to all our new ministers setting about the business of delivering for the community they serve."

Robinson and the new Finance Minister Sammy Wilson remain multi-function holders as MPs, Northern ministers and Assembly members. On top of that Wilson is also a member of Belfast City Council.

However, the DUP leader said that he expects his double-jobbing MPs to choose between sitting in Westminster or Stormont.

Today's move was made with some greater urgency than had been originally expected, predominantly as a result of the recent European Parliament election.

The DUP did win one of the three European seats available in the North, with Nigel Dodds' wife Diane Dodds (left) being elected as the party's new MEP. But overall the result was rather disappointing and the DUP vote plummeted from 32% (in 2004) to 18.2%.

Only time will tell if the new ministers will make any difference to the Northern administration. Somehow I doubt it.

The Emerald Islander

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