Robinson's hand remains unconvincing

It would be churlish not to register some pleasure that the Northern Ireland Executive’s second worst minister, Edwin Poots, is a casualty of Peter Robinson’s first reshuffle of the DUP’s executive positions. Placatory noises have issued from the First Minister, to the effect that the Lagan Valley MLA could return to a ministerial role in eighteen months time, but I will believe it when I see it.

Less encouraging is the rest of the reshuffle’s content. The DUP continues its insistence on double and triple jobbing its high profile personnel. Meanwhile the new Environment Minister is Sammy Wilson, an appointment which could be viewed as something akin to putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank. Wilson may be the DUP’s jester, and he may not be drawn from the religious wing of his party, but he shares with his fundamentalist colleagues a tendency to refute established scientific opinion. Sammy may not be so rib-tickling when he puts into action his self-professed scepticism over the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change.

And whilst, as a football supporter, it is encouraging that a fan of the game is in charge of the sports’ remit, sport is only one aspect of culture, arts and leisure. Gregory Campbell has already fairly openly admitted that he has little interest in arts on Good Morning Ulster today. When the News Letter trumpets his ‘keen interest in culture’, it’s tempting to conclude that this keen interest encompasses a fairly limited slice of ‘community culture’.

Nigel Dodds will be minister of finance, and in common with Wilson and Campbell, it is difficult to envisage that his Westminster duties will not play second fiddle to such a complicated brief. Arlene Foster is not a Member of Parliament, but she has acquired a portfolio at the Department of Trade and Industry, which will require her to travel widely promoting Northern Ireland business. It is difficult to see this as an ideal position for someone with a young family. .

Peter Robinson has shuffled his cards, but his hand remains unconvincing.


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