Sunday, 10 January 2010

Devolution Bigger Than One Man

Peter Brookes in The Times 9 January 2010

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward has insisted that the "devolution process is bigger than one man" as the DUP after expelling Iris Robinson turns its attention this week to her husband.

A Senior Free Presbyterian Minister, the church founded by Ian Paisley, the Rev David McIlveen has joined calls for the First Minister to step down saying:

"I do believe that his position is becoming increasingly untenable. He has a major problem with regard to solving his own family difficulties and I personally cannot take the view that a person's private life does not affect their public life."

So if at the end of the week Peter Robinson does step down who is liable to replace his as leader of the DUP and First Minister. There is talk of moves to make Sammy Wilson take the role as first Minister and Arlene Foster the role of party leader in a split role.

Sammy started his life with the DUP as their press officer in 1981, and shortly after was elected to Belfast City Council, a position he still holds. He was the first DUP Lord Mayor of the city in 1986/7 a position he held again in 2000/1. He's been an ever present Assembly Member being returned in the first election in 1998 for East Belfast, and for the second in 2003 for East Antrim. In 2005 he defeated Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs who had been MP for 22 years to take the Westminster seat as well with a majority of 7,304; he'd just failed to do so in 2001 by 128 votes.

Sammy entered ministerial office as Minister for the Environment, where he famously showed climate change denying tenancies with quotes such as "reasoned debate must replace the scaremongering of the green climate alarmists" and "resources should be used to adapt to the consequences of climate change, rather than King Canute-style vainly trying to stop it". After failing to introduce an independent environmental protection agency and banning a climate change advert from Northern Irish screens in February 2009, he was moved in the June 2009 to Department of Finance and Personnel.

Peter Robinson described him on his appointment as the "most qualified finance minister Northern Ireland has had in decades", with his degree in Economics and Politics from Queens, and subsequent teaching qualification for the same. Here too he has not avoided criticism this time from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities when he said "jobs should go to people born in Northern Ireland before going to economic migrants". Also when their were attacks on Romanian people in Belfast he had said "charges of racism were always coincided with the holding out of the hand for more money".

His voting record in Westminster indicates:
  • Voted a mixture of for and against a transparent Parliament.
  • Voted very strongly for introducing a smoking ban.
  • Voted strongly against introducing ID cards.
  • Voted moderately against Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
  • Voted moderately for an investigation into the Iraq war.
  • Voted for replacing Trident.
  • Voted moderately against equal gay rights.
  • Voted strongly against laws to stop climate change.
Arlene started out life in the UUP and it was with them that she was elected in the November 2003 Assembly elections for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. However, on 5 January 2004 she along Jeffrey Donaldson and Norah Beare in joining the DUP after resigning from the UUP the month before. She became the Environment Minister in May 2007, one of her early roles was to preliminary approval to a privately financed scheme for a new Giant's Causeway Centre, shortly after doing so the public money to Northern Ireland's top tourist destination was frozen. She was succeeded in this role when she was reshuffled to the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment.

Others who may throw their hat into a contest though may include Jeffrey Donaldson or Nigel Dodds both of whom are experienced DUP politicians.

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