New Sinn Fein Ministers in Six-County Executive
New Sinn Fein Ministers in Six-County Executive

The political parties at Stormont appointed a new Six-County Executive today [Monday], with Sinn Fein surprisingly dropping its entire Executive team, with the exception of its Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

The formal distribution of the Ministries under the d’Hondt process gave the re-elected First Minister Peter Robinson first choice of portfolios for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Mr Robinson confirmed Sammy Wilson will continue to run the Six-County Department of Finance portfolio.

The other Ministerial positions were offered to the Stormont parties according to their strength in the Assembly. There are 3 DUP, 3 Sinn Fein, 1 UUP, 1 SDLP and 2 Alliance Ministers on the new Executive, along with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

The posts were selected by the parties under the mathematical rules of d’Hondt in the following order: Finance [DUP], Education [Sinn Fein], Enterprise [DUP], Regional Development [UUP], Culture [Sinn Fein], Environment [SDLP], Social Development [DUP], Agriculture [Sinn Fein], Health [DUP], Employment and Learning [Alliance].

While Sinn Fein held on to the Education and Agriculture portfolios, it missed out on the heavy-hitting Department of Regional Development, previously run by Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy. It opted instead for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, a post controversially held until last week by the DUP.

After years of bitter opposition by the unionist parties, Mayo woman Caitriona Ruane was dropped as Minister for Education by Sinn Fein in favour of Lurgan-based Assembly member John O’Dowd.

However, three women were newly appointed to Sinn Fein’s ministerial team. The party promoted Dungannon-based Michelle O’Neill as Minister for Agriculture to replace Fermanagh MP Michelle Gildernew, while west Belfast stalwart Caral Ni Chuilin becomes the new Minister for Culture.

Derry-based Martina Anderson also becomes junior minister at the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, replacing north Belfast representative Gerry Kelly. Both Ruane and Kelly were appointed to the Policing Board, alongside West Belfast Assembly member Pat Sheehan.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, who announced the party’s Ministerial line-up today, thanked the outgoing Sinn Fein Ministers.

Meanwhile, it was announced that the DUP selected Edwin Poots as Minister for Health, Nelson McCausland as Social Development Minister, and confirmed Arlene Foster will remain as Minister for Enterprise. All were ministers in the last Assembly.

Peter Robinson announced one new face, however, with DUP policing board member Jonathan Bell confirmed as his junior minister in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). The DUP leader said in two year’s time he will appoint the party’s ‘rising star’ Simon Hamilton to the finance post, while party veteran Jim Wells will take over at health.

The Ulster Unionist Party named Danny Kennedy as Minister for Regional Development. The nationalist SDLP confirmed that Alex Attwood, a minister in the last administration, will hold the environment brief. The moderate unionist Alliance Party selected Stephen Farry as Minister for Employment and Learnding.

The Departments of Health and Employment and Learning were widely seen as ‘poison chalice’ posts and were the last two Departments to be picked. Under British-imposed cutbacks they will see the forced implementation of heavy cuts, fee hikes and redundancies.

There was some surprise that Sinn Fein opted to take the Department of Education, which is facing similar pressure, as its first pick. Speaking prior to his appointment today as Education Minister, John O’Dowd said Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams had made the decision to choose education “and I think it is the right decision”.

Mr McGuinness said that education is the “cornerstone of any productive and progressive society” and that Sinn Fein was committed to “protecting and continuing the radical change” it had brought in scrapping the 11-plus exam. The exam has long been the bane of primary school children and their parents as it was used in a discriminatory selection of pupils by certain second level schools.


Alliance Party leader David Ford was also re-elected as Justice Minister, which is filled on a cross-community basis under the Hillsborough Agreement, at least until next year.

A series of Assembly members were nominated on Monday evening before David Ford secured the post.

Nominating his party leader, Stephen Farry said Mr Ford was the only person capable of achieving cross-community support and that he had established the confidence of stakeholders and society during his first year of office.

However, the UUP said that the Justice Ministry should have been filled by the same means as the other posts.

Unionist hardliner Jim Allister, who does not consider Alliance to be a unionist party, said that the election of Mr Ford “underscores the inequity of the house in that his election will deliver an anti-unionist majority on the executive”.

The following were the other appointments made by Sinn Fein for the new Assembly term:

Parliamentary Under Secretaries:
Culture - Barry McElduff
Education - Mitchel McLaughlin
Regional Development - Pat Doherty

Sinn Fein Committee Chairs:
Finance and Personnel - Conor Murphy
Health - Michelle Gildernew
Social Development - Alex Maskey
Public Accounts Committee - Paul Maskey
Committee on Procedures - Sue Ramsey

Sinn Fein Vice Chairs:
Justice - Raymond McCartney
Regional Development - Pat Doherty
Social Development - Micky Brady
Enterprise - Daithi McKay
Assembly Executive Review Committee - Alex Maskey

Policing Board representatives:
Gerry Kelly
Caitriona Ruane
Pat Sheehan

Sinn Fein Assembly group appointments:
Assembly Group leader - Raymond McCartney
Whip - Jennifer McCann
Deputy Whip - Paul Maskey

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