Thursday, 1 May 2008

Time to go

As regular readers will have ascertained, one of my favourite columnists writing about Northern Ireland is Alex Kane, a commentator with a secular unionist hue which I find particularly amenable. I frequently link Alex’s News Letter column, and this week it is a particular pleasure to draw readers’ attention to a piece which sees him in strident form, dealing with our executive’s disastrous Education Minister.

Caitriona Ruane has fought off a robust challenge from the DUP’s Minster for Arts and Culture, Edwin Poots, to claim the title of worst minister in the Northern Ireland Executive. Her tendency to avoid fulfilling her brief by recourse to mealy mouthed, self-righteous platitudes has singularly failed to obscure the fact that she has refused to outline a strategy for replacing the contentious Eleven Plus exam. Caitriona has failed to fool anyone. Alex provides perhaps the most unremitting and succinct analysis of Ruane’s performance which has been offered to date.

“How thoroughly, fundamentally, demonstrably and serially incompetent must a Minister be before Executive colleagues, departmental committee members and MLAs collectively, round upon them and hound them from office? I only ask, because Caitriona Ruane---whose level of ineptitude appears to be incalculable---remains in a job at which she has proved herself utterly unsuitable. And it’s not just the fact that the scale of her uselessness is of epic proportions; it’s also the fact that every question or criticism is greeted with an arrogant disdain or a patronising putdown.”

Kane views Ruane’s performance as something of a litmus test for the NI Executive’s effectiveness. If the Assembly and the Executive drawn from it proves incapable of “chopping down and dumping the ministerial deadwood”, then its credibility is damaged and the perception that ministers are accountable is also dealt a blow. Ruane does not command the confidence of her colleagues, two thirds of head teachers are opposed to her and parents are organising meetings throughout Northern Ireland to protest her incompetence. If the Executive is in any serious way responsive to either the public or the Assembly, Ruane must walk and must walk soon before she has time to do more damage.

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