Ill-feeling over the schools transfer debacle dramatically re-entered the election campaign yesterday after the DUP confirmed the Education ministry would be its second choice — after Finance.
Leader Peter Robinson had already revealed the Finance Department was his priority, but education spokesman Mervyn Storey disclosed the party’s next selection would be Education.
However, if the parties are returned after Thursday on the same strengths as at present, Sinn Fein will be given the second choice after the DUP when the Stormont mechanism for sharing the portfolios is rolled out in the Assembly.
And that would give Sinn Fein an opportunity to retain Caitriona Ruane in the Education hotseat — although there has been an expectation the party might instead opt for the Enterprise, Trade and Industry job as its first ministerial choice.
Were that to happen, the DUP could then take the Education post, which North Antrim candidate Mr Storey told the BBC Radio Ulster Nolan show debate on education that his party would do.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister immediately pounced on the revelation, arguing that a vote for the DUP meant Caitriona Ruane staying on in Education.
But Mr Storey said: “Whilst the TUV tries to turn our children’s education into a political football, the DUP recognises we must work constructively to make progress on this issue.”