Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Deals over reforms 'can be reached'

Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Martin McGuinness

Executive impasses over education and local government reform in Northern Ireland can be resolved following the election, the Deputy First Minister has declared.

Martin McGuinness pledged agreement on creating a centralised Education and Skills Authority (ESA) and insisted that proposals to reduce the number of local councils could be reached and would deliver public spending savings.

The DUP is opposed to the creation of the ESA because it is unhappy with its treatment of controlled schools mainly attended by Protestant children.

Mr McGuinness told a Belfast meeting of business leaders the establishment of the ESA and review of local government were "eminently capable" of being resolved.

He added: "The next four years will be an Assembly that can continue to go from strength to strength."

The designate head of the proposed body to replace Northern Ireland's five education and library boards has returned to his old job as head of the exams board.

Gavin Boyd rejoined the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) as interim chief executive. He will also continue to oversee plans to implement the ESA.

The body was due to start work on January 1 last year but its creation has yet to be approved by the Assembly. It would replace four other bodies but the DUP is opposed to its creation because it is unhappy with the treatment of controlled schools, attended mostly by Protestant children.

The party has been at loggerheads with Sinn Fein Education Minister Caitriona Ruane, who says the reforms would save money and streamline bureaucracy.

The Review of Public Administration has been stalled since last June. It would involve reducing 26 local councils to 11.

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