Ministers with issues…

CLAIRE Simpson did a brief round-up of some of the key issues facing the new ministers when they take their seats in the Executive in yesterday’s Irish News. It’s copied below. Now that we are starting to pair ministers to departments, and know who will be chairing their respective committee, the shape of the new politics is beginning to emerge.Finance – DUP

Arguably the most important brief, the party will have control of the entire executive’s finances. With criticisms over excessive spending and the alleged financial mismanagement of public works, such as the Belfast to Bangor rail line, the minister may have to make some tough budgetary decisions.

Education – Sinn Fein (SF)

The party chose the difficult education brief, including the thorny issue of academic selection, over a chance to run the economy. Sinn Fein and the SDLP oppose another form of selection replacing the 11-plus, but the unionist parties are in favour. The minister will also have the task of announcing multiple school closures.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment – DUP

The portfolio covers such varied areas as consumer affairs, the Tourist Board and economic policy development. The activities of Invest NI will also be closely scrutinised by nationalist parties, who have complained about its record in creating jobs in west Belfast and west of the Bann.

Health – Ulster Unionist Party

This portfolio is potentially the most difficult with lengthy hospital waiting lists, underfunding of mental health services and the need to tackle the rise of ‘superbugs’ all key issues.

Social Development – SDLP

The party will be responsible for the unwieldy and expensive benefits system, as well as housing and urban regeneration. The incoming minister will also have to oversee the British government’s controversial decision to give £1 million worth of funding to loyalists associated with the UDA.

Regional Development – SF

This high-profile brief includes the reform of water and sewage services, including controversial water charges and the future of public transport. All of the parties are opposed to water charging, although money will have to be found to upgrade the crumbling sewage system.

Environment – DUP

With environmental issues given more weight during last month’s elections, including the election of a Green Party assembly member, the portfolio is expected to enjoy a higher profile than in the previous assembly. Road safety, conservation and sustainable development all form part of the brief.

Agriculture and Rural Development – SF

With the north’s agricultural industry apparently in terminal decline, the incoming minister will have to oversee changes to countryside management. He or she may also have to deal with a potential avian flu outbreak.

Culture, Arts and Leisure – DUP

Irish language groups are likely to greet the DUP’s choice of this portfolio with dismay, which gives it a vital say over the proposed Irish Language Act. The party will also oversee the decision on the site of the new multi-sports stadium and funding for Ulster-Scots projects.

Employment and Learning – Ulster Unionist Party

Likely to have the lowest profile, the minister will have to oversee proposed amalgamations of the north’s further education colleges as well as job training schemes, careers services and the network of JobCentres.