Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Ruane may retain Education as Sinn Fein picks ministry again

Caitriona Ruane

Sinn Fein is back in charge of Education after the Northern Ireland parties scored a first by choosing their ministerial portfolios live on Twitter last night. The identities of the new ministers won’t be known until Monday.

Then d’Hondt, the mathematical sequence in which portfolios are allocated, will be run more formally in the Assembly. However Caitriona Ruane, an unpopular choice with other parties but favoured by Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, has stated publicly she would “love to be Education Minister” for another term.

The republicans also picked the Department of Culture Art and Leisure, where they are pledged to introduce an Irish Language Act. They may reverse many of the policies promoted by Nelson McCausland, their DUP predecessor.

The third, and final, Sinn Fein department is Agriculture, which it held before and where its minister was Michelle Gildernew, who proved popular with farmers across the board.

The DUP has picked two ministries it held before and two new ones. It will continue to hold Finance, its first choice where its previous minister Sammy Wilson is expected to continue in office. It has also chosen Enterprise, Trade and Employment where Arlene Foster was its minister in the last Assembly.

It has also chosen the Department for Social Development, which covers housing and was previously held by Alex Attwood of the SDLP. Here the party plans widespread change.

A central proposal in its manifesto is to introduce a Housing Regulator to oversee the whole sector and to break up the Housing Executive.

The party’s final choice was Heath, previously held by the UUP’s Michael McGimpsey. Health accounts for 70% of spending and the DUP’s assertion that there are plenty of savings to be made in health without cutting frontline services will be put to the test.

Its proposals include building a cancer centre at Altnagelvin in Londonderry and slashing administrative costs.

The UUP, which is down to one ministry this time, picked Regional Development, previously held by Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy. It will promote its plans for a mutualised water service which may be able to charge customers.

The SDLP got Environment, previously held by Edwin Poots of the DUP, and Alliance was left with the Department of Education and Learning, seen as a poisoned chalice because it involves responsibility for student fees.

Alliance is also expected to get Justice, which is allocated separately on a cross-community vote in the Assembly.

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