Belfast Telegraph

Departing Stormont minister Kennedy accused of leaving division in 'chaos'

By Noel McAdam

Danny Kennedy has been accused of leaving his government department in chaos as he quits the Stormont Executive.

The sole Ulster Unionist minister was also charged by the DUP with abandoning his post just as potential job losses loom.

And the Department for Regional Development (DRD), now being run by civil servants, also confirmed there would be "no new policy decisions" until a new minister is appointed.

Mr Kennedy formally wrote to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday confirming his resignation from the Executive.

His two-sentence letter made no mention, however, of the reason why the UUP has pulled out of the Executive - over PSNI claims Provisional IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

The DUP's Trevor Clarke, who chairs the Assembly committee which monitors the DRD, said Mr Kennedy was leaving the department "in chaos".

"We have looming job losses because of the lack of movement on road maintenance contracts, for example," he said.

And he said the minister had already "given up" on the growing problem of unkempt and potentially dangerous road verges and Translink's plans to reduce bus timetables.

But the DUP MLA also (right) said he did not have a view on whether his party should take up the ministerial seat vacated by Mr Kennedy.

After his departure tonight, Mr Kennedy's party leader Mike Nesbitt has a week to re-nominate someone to the post, which he will not do.

The choice then falls to the DUP under the d'Hondt mechanism for sharing out portfolios on the Executive. If the DUP refuses, Sinn Fein would have next choice.

Hitting back last night, the UUP's representative on the DRD committee, Adrian Cochrane-Watson, suggested Mr Clarke was making a pitch for the ministerial seat himself.

"Trevor Clarke's statement is as limited as his contributions to the Regional Development Committee," he said.

"Perhaps Trevor's time would be better spent thinking of how his party intends to overcome the titanic hole in the current budget they have presided over.

"Or maybe this is Trevor making a pitch for the role of Regional Development Minister himself. Let's hope he'll be better treated by the Finance Minister than Danny Kennedy ever was."

A DRD statement said: "After the minister's resignation, there will be no minister until a successor is appointed.

"The Department will continue to function, to meet its statutory duties and to respond to queries raised in line with current policies. No new policy decisions will be taken until a minister is appointed."

But on all imminent decisions, a DRD spokesman also said: "The minister has sought to leave office having taken all urgent decisions brought to his attention."

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