There has been a fair amount of confusion and off key singing from the official hymn sheet since devolution officially restarted in early May. So far, the DUP has managed to keep its ministerial line intact, though today’s Irish Times, carries two conflicting internal accounts of the party’s position re the possible reappointment of a Cabinet based Secretary of State for Northern Ireland:This from one member of the party’s Excutive team:
DUP MP Nigel Dodds told The Irish Times he would like to see Mr Brown reinstate the position of a full-time Northern Ireland secretary. Provided “the lines of responsibility” were clearly drawn between Westminster and the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly – which he was “sure” they would be – Mr Dodds said: “My view is that it’s better to have someone at the cabinet table fighting for your interests.” The Stormont Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister added that this would be “especially” the case when it came to the negotiation of the British government’s comprehensive spending review.
Since there are a number of issues requiring critical oversight from Wesminster, not least Policing and Justice, it’s not hard to see why the DUP might adopt such a line, at least in the short term. But it seems to be at considerable variance with current thinking inside the party’s First Minister’s office:
Mr Paisley Jnr confirmed his expectation that – whatever cabinet appointments are initially announced next week – the new prime minister would probably eventually appoint “a minister responsible for all the regions” embracing Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Mr Paisley jnr said he thought Mr Brown might move in the autumn to appoint a junior minister or ministers at cabinet office level, answering directly to him “as prime minister for every region of the United Kingdom”.
Asked if the DUP leadership had already agreed there should be no Northern Ireland secretary with cabinet rank, Mr Paisley jnr replied: “We never supported the idea of a secretary of state. That was something foisted upon us when they took away our [ pre-1972, Northern Ireland] parliament in the first place.”
So which is it guys?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty