The story of today’s ministerial appointments was the rabbits sprung from the SF hat. No one had predicted that The Adams leadership would go for a clean sweep ripping out so much ministerial experience in one go from the Executive. That was the first surprise and there was more to come. Mr Adams named three women in ministerial posts, Michelle O Neill in Agriculture, Caral Ni Chuilin in Culture, and Martina Anderson as Junior Minister to shadow the DUP’s Jonathan Bell. John O Dowd replaces Caitriona Ruane in Education.
One of the DUP’s big shocks was Edwin Poots going to Health. Peter Robinson is keeping faith with those who delivered a resounding election result. Sammy Wilson stays in Finance for two years when emerging star Simon Hamilton takes the reins. Arlene Foster will continue doing what she loves, announcing jobs here and jobs there and travelling on behalf of DETI. Nelson Mc Causland’s North Belfast performance electorally has stood him in good stead and he gets DSD. Long suffering back bencher and able Health Committee chairman Jim Wells will have to wait two years to get his hands on the levers of power in that Department. Who knows what the South Down Assembly member would have said under cross examination if he hadn’t been promised his ‘day in the sun.’ Margaret Ritchie has remained loyal to her chief lieutenant Alex Atwood who goes to Environment. The decision to ignore deputy leader Patsy Mc Glone could have far reaching implications for the future of the SDLP. Alex Atwood is regarded globally as a very capable minister who is relentless in pursuit of his prey at the Executive table. Party insiders were arguing that Mc Glone would have been a ministerial asset in renewing the SDLP in the West of Northern Ireland where that party is rapidly losing ground. The re-appointment of Danny Kennedy as a minister is a reward for loyalty to Tom Elliott. He was cute unlike his former fellow minister Michael Mc Gimpsey and didn’t show his hand at DEL on student fees. That grenade has now landed in the lap of Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party. The elevation of Caral Ni Chuilean, a Queen’s University graduate, she tells me, and former leader of IRA women in gaol, may well have shocked her. She is addicted to Twitter like Peter Robinson. They can keep in touch at Executive meetings this way when they are bored like another former high profile figure who practised this art during meetings to pass the time. We are up and running again with David Ford the last minister to be reappointed to Justice. Jim Allister spoke of the minister with ‘an open door policy on prisoners.” He went on to say “He has lost more prisoners than I have lost elections.”