The North’s most controversial Minister, John Spellar, has been replaced by a millionaire Tory renegade as part of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet reshuffle.
Three new Direct Rule ministers have been appointed to the British government’s Northern Ireland Office. Shaun Woodward is to replace John Spellar, while David Hanson and Jeff Rooker are to join Woodward and Angela Smith, who is to remain in the North.
Woodward MP for St Helen’s South in London, was a senior figure in Conservative politics. He was sacked in 1999 as London spokesman after refusing to accept the party line on the repeal of laws which forbade the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities and defected to Labour three weeks later.
David Hanson is MP for Delyn in north Wales and a trusted ally of Tony Blair, having been his parliamentary private secretary for the last four years.
He was a minister in the Welsh Office until 2001, when he took a pay cut to receive the prestigious job of parliamentary private secretary to the prime minister. He was responsible for keeping Mr Blair up to date with backbench opinion.
Lord Jeff Rooker, a Birmingham MO, started his ministerial career in 1997 as minister of state at the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food. In July 1999 he was minister of state for social security and in 2001 he was minister of state at the Home Office.
Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has challenged the new team of direct rule ministers to abandon the failures and mistakes of predecessors.
“Now that we have finally lost the totally incompetent John Speller and hapless Barry Gardiner there is a responsibility and challenge to Lord Rooker, Shaun Woodward and Peter Hain to abandon failures of their predecessors,” he said.
“Across the political spectrum there is opposition to the unjust water tax and there is public outcry about the cuts in frontline education services. The challenge to the new set of British direct rule ministers is to listen to the democratic voice of people living in this part of Ireland.
“We need to break the political deadlock surrounding the all-Ireland agenda so that we can deliver better public service, particularly for people living in border communities and make economies of scale savings.
“In the time ahead Sinn Féin will continue to strive for political progress to see the reestablishment of the local institutions and the return of decision making power to locally elected and democratically accountable people. Until then the message for our undemocratic direct rule ministers is ‘reject the failures Speller and Gardiner and listen to the democratic voice of people’.”