Similarly, her two bills aimed at establishing an Education and Skills Authority (ESA), which would centralise functions currently carried out by the five Education and Library Boards, as well as the CCEA exam board and the Regional Training Unit, have run aground at Stormont. However, in a statement delivered to the Assembly yesterday, Ms. Ruane set out plans to (you guessed it) carry on regardless of dissenting voices and start implementing the ESA project.
The two UUP ministers, Michael McGimpsey and Sir Reg Empey, have delivered their response:
“The statement made today by the Minister of Education represents an incredibly worrying development. At no time has Minister Ruane sought the support of the Northern Ireland Executive for her ‘transitional governance’ plans for education. This is despite the Ministerial Code requiring a Minister to bring any cross-cutting and ‘significant or controversial’ matters to the Executive.
“Nor has the Minister’s Bill creating the Education and Skills Authority passed the Northern Ireland Assembly or received the Royal Assent. In fact, the very reason the Minister has decided to bring forward transitional plans is precisely because of the lack of support in the Assembly for her Bill creating the ESA.
“Without the support of the Executive or the Assembly, the Minister of Education has arbitrarily decided to give ‘a much more direct role’ in the governance of our education system to a body – the ESA – which has not yet been created by legislation nor received the assent of the Northern Ireland Assembly or Executive.
“Devolution is meant to be about democratic accountability – not ministerial authoritarianism. We are now calling on the Executive to urgently convene and require from the Minister for Education an explanation for her actions"