A question of chairmanship

A wee Sunday thought.

Under d’Hondt, and specifically section 18 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the DUP is due to be asked to nominate the new minister for Regional Development when the Assembly reconvenes after the summer break.

The current chairperson of the Committee for Regional Development is Trevor Clarke, in succession to Jimmy Spratt.  Section 29(5) of the same Act says that “in making a selection under the provision made by virtue of subsection (2)(a), a nominating officer [in this case for the DUP] shall prefer a committee in which he does not have a party interest to one in which he does” and subsection (6)(b) defines a party interest as if a committee “is established to advise and assist a Northern Ireland Minister and that Minister is a member of his party.” ((6)(a) has a similar definition for either party in OFMDFM)

A cursory glance through the list reveals that of the departments not run by DUP MLAs, only DEL and DOE currently have a Committee chair belonging to another party.

While the DUP is not required to give up the chair of the Committee for Regional Development under the NI Act, and indeed the present deputy chairperson of the DHSSPS committee belongs to the DUP, it will be interesting to see whether they will exchange chairmanship of the committee with another party in order to observe the spirit of the Act.

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  • Catcher in the Rye

    Andy,

    Any number of things could happen. Nothing says that the DUP will even attempt to nominate a replacement minister.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There’s a simple but funny solution to this… Give the chair role for DRD to Danny Kennedy,

  • AndyB

    Unless they decide to collapse the Executive, there is one reason why they will nominate a replacement minister: if they don’t, the opportunity will pass to Sinn Fein, who will almost certainly accept it, giving them equal strength round the Executive table.

  • AndyB

    You would think that could work, as the UUP has 25th pick for the statutory committees, followed by DUP so they could in principle do a swap within the law and have DUP take over the chair of DEL’s committee. The problem is that the DUP are already deputy chair of DEL’s committee, although, and rather unusually, Sinn Fein hold both the chair and deputy chair of DSD’s committee.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well my assumption was that effectively the UUP was choosing a committee chairmanship with their D’Hondt nomination instead of the ministerial roles. My assumption is the Chairperson roles were handed out by continuing D’Hondt down the list.

    Basically this is a One Swap Deal – the Ministry for the Chairmanship … DUP take the Ministry, UUP take over the chairmanship.

    Heck, Trevor Clarke could become the new DRD minister.

    That would be something that continues the spirit of D’Hondt but it’s probably the case not choosing a minister simply moves D’Hondt forward.

    There is another factor, an empty committee deputy chairperson role to be filled in Social Development … previously held by Micky Brady.

    DCAL has a DUP chair and Deputy chair, and Social Development used to have a SF chair and Deputy chair, if there is going to be a swap, then I think the swap is obvious.

    It’s probably better to have deputy chairs from the same party as the minister than to have chair and deputy chair coming from the same party. So SF Deputy chair of DCAL, DUP deputy chair of Social Development.

    It’s really about which is the worst conflict of interest.

  • AndyB

    I had to double check, but the d’Hondt process is run separately for ministries and committee chairs. It’s run a third time for the chairs of the non-statutory committees (standing orders, audit, standards and privileges etc).

    Micky Brady’s role will be filled by a Sinn Fein member unless they decide to cede it to the next party under d’Hondt (presently the UUP.) They won’t.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Connor Murphy probably seems like a decent enough bet to fill that gap.

  • AndyB

    For what it’s worth, I have had exactly the same thought as you for the new DRD minister. On the other hand, they might decide to bring someone else in in order to protect him from having to put his money where his mouth is.

  • Frank Togher

    Seems Robinson is taking a big chance with his present stance. Hats off to him and he may just pull the rug from under the UUP after their impulsive and predictable withdrawal.