Belfast Telegraph

Assembly will be hard act to follow

By Will Chambre

Should major changes to policy by a public body be communicated to the minister with responsibility for that body? You would have thought so, but at the Education Authority they prefer to do things differently.

When the number of hours available to learn in nursery units in special schools was cut, Education Minister John O'Dowd first heard the news on BBC Radio Ulster.

Scundered? Yes. Annoyed? Absolutely! Is it any wonder Mr O'Dowd says he's not up for another term helming Education?

He's even punted the decision on dumping out older teachers for recently qualified (cheaper) ones up to his Executive colleagues.

That's one toxic grenade no one wants. Speaking of toxic things, if you want to dig up some ground in the hope of striking oil in Northern Ireland, then it will get a lot tougher from now on.

In the wake of the Woodburn oil controversy near Carrickfergus, the Environment Minister has launched a call for evidence which could result in big changes to the permission required to drill on land owned by the State.

The minister will be keen to avoid any more fallout over the issue, and after the week he had, who can blame him for wanting a few quite days.

It started off with a 'joke' about abortion that landed him in hot water, and ended up with a High Court judge ruling that he had acted unlawfully over BMAP.

With a week like that, it's a testament to Mr Durkan's character that he even showed up to speak at the SDLP conference on Saturday; others might have opted to sit in a darkened room hugging their knees instead.

On the other hand, though, with Assembly dissolution less than three weeks away we're starting to get a bit nostalgic here at Chambre Public Affairs.

The last five years have been like a rocky relationship, full of arguments, tantrums, and mudslinging - but it's what we've grown used to.

The new mandate will bring new faces and new dynamics to the Assembly chamber, and after all the excitement of the last chapter in Norn Iron politics, the next one has a lot to live up to.

  • Will Chambre is managing director of Chambré Public Affairs LLP

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