One of the less remarked upon items in yesterday’s announcement is the intended creation of a “new Rapid Response Capacity” to be “fast tracked through the Assembly in the form of a new Financial Assistance Bill.” Which is nice, obviously. There’s little actual detail on the intended mechanism but, apart from allowing Northern Ireland’s First and deputy First Ministers to claim ownership of the fuel poverty relief payments this time, what could it be used for in the future? According to the deputy First Minister
Mr McGuinness said: In the future however OFMDFM can deploy the capacity to provide a rapid and effective response to any situation the Executive feels warrants the protection of local interests.”
So the NI Executive would have to meet in advance of the use of that Rapid Reaction Capacity? And, presumably, OFMDFM could then re-allocate funds from one departmental budget or another to be used in that Capacity? And then take action in an area otherwise within the remit of any particular Minister or Ministers? Given that Sinn Féin and the DUP, provided they agree, can carry any vote in the
semi-detached polit-bureau Northern Ireland Executive, I guess that would answer that earlier question..