“Following consultation with my advisers..”

With the semi-accountable, and semi-detached, polit-bureau unable, or unwilling, to agree to place certain dishonourably leaked confidential papers on the agenda for today’s Northern Ireland Executive meeting, one of the two Ministers involved was always likely to have something to say. As it was Gregory Campbell had another appointment, and so the NI Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane, emerged from the meeting to blame the DUP – despite the fact that, as Mark Devenport puts it, “in truth the minister’s paper is mainly a reiteration of her previous offer of a three year phase out for academic selection.” And we’ve just had another set-piece on that. After all, it’s not as if anyone is surprised at this point, are they? A brief press statement after the NI Executive meeting was followed by a rare live appearance by the minister in a TV studio where, despite channelling someone resembling Paxman, UTV Live presenter Paul Clark failed to get an answer on where the “detailed policies” would appear.. never mind the details themselves. [Caitríona has advisers? – Ed] Apparently so..

From BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport’s blog

Emerging from the Executive, Ms Ruane accused the DUP of blocking her proposals and vowed not to bring forward any new initiative. Instead she says she will have discussions with her officials and act decisively in the days ahead. That sounds like code for issuing guidelines which will not be as binding as any legal regulations approved by the Executive.

With the majority of grammar schools already making preparations for go it alone tests, this afternoon felt like the beginning of an “unregulated regime” for post primary transfer. Whichever side of the argument over academic selection you take, it’s a worrying prospect: potential educational anarchy and pupils and teachers being used as political pawns.

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  • William

    unable to answer a question. Why this totally usless Co. Louth resident is imposed on another jurisdiction as a supposed ‘Education’ minister is beyond me. Even some of the Shinners think her a liability, regularly bailed out by her colleague, O’Dowd.

    [Keep it civil – edited moderator]

  • cynic

    Her performance on screen encapsulated the problem.

    She couldn’t get consensus so her proposals went nowhere in the Executive. “I will now bring forward policies” she shrilled. Yes, said Clarke pointedly, but if you cannot get agreement they will go nowhere.

    “Wait until you see the policies” , she said. Oh we will Catriona, we will.

    “I will be consulting my officials and advisers.” she trumpeted, the elfin face grinning wildly. God, it was hard to watch with a straight face.

    I wonder when some of the advisers will have the nerve to tell her that she’s dead in the water politically and will end up looking exceedingly foolish. An Education Minister gently swimming around in circles.

  • Driftwood

    She is now such a laughing stock that Catherine Tate couldn’t dream up such a comical figure. Dick Emery would have loved to make up such a caricature. “It’s perfectly clear”.
    My niece told me tonight that schoolchildren now mimic her in the same way as ‘Vicky Pollard’. says it all really.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    The DUP spin about Ruane and SF being incompetent in negotiations should just be ignored as they try unsucessfully to come to terms with the fact that rather than “smashing SF” as per their ridiculous mainfesto claims and equally ridiculous “serious consequences” threatened by Robbo they have rather to come to terms with the fact that they can do feck all without SF agreement. lol.

  • cut the bull

    William speaking of impositions and jurisdictions Catriona must feel at home with Willie Hay as he is Donegal born and bred.

  • Sunningdale1973

    Catriona Ruane vs Baldrick – He at least had “a cunning plan”. Her fabulous idea is that she will “go away again and talk to her advisers to develop a way forward”.

    If it wasn’t our kids’ education at stake it might be funny.

    Have the Dupes played politics on this – probably, but then compared with her coleagues she is without a doubt the Minister most out of her depth. Do us all a favour and resign!

  • William

    CUT THE BULL…… Live up to your name mate…Willie Hay is around 60 years of age….he was born about 2 miles into Donegal and his family moved when he was 2 into Northern Ireland.

    Ruaneator CURRENTLY lives in Co. Louth and surprise, surprise engages in ‘grannying’ by sending her children to a school in British Northern Ireland. Must be a better education system here !!

    Foreigners should not have the future of our children in their hands. She is a totally useless Minister.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This woman is a laughing stock. She’s going to bring more proposals forward in a few days (what’s she been doing for the past two years ?) .. which the executive are going to reject. Someone needs to pull the plug on this nonsense, fast. The DUP have shown themselves capable of backing down from silliness, SF need to show the same capability.

  • William

    I know one of her senior officials and he is glad he’s bald, as he would be pulling his hair out. He comments that the only good thing about her, is that she has only been in the office about 20 times since she became Minister.

  • cut the bull

    Now william your showing a hint of racism here. Willie was born an Irish citizen two miles into Donegal. His family moved from one part of Ulster to another another part of Ulster and he looks well for a 60 0dd year old.

    Well the education system couldnt be that good if your continually complaining about its minister.

    In your estimation is Willy a foreigner by birth or is he a reformed Britsh citizen from Donegal

  • William

    My point is not about birth…had the Ruanator been born in Dundonald but was now living in Dundalk, I would think it wrong…likewise if Willie Hay was still a resident of Donegal, I would think the same. Residents of another jurisdiction should not be Ministers in our Government. Nothing racist about it….she is totally out of her depth, engages in ‘grannying’ with her children educated in Northern Ireland, whilst residents of the Republic.
    As to our education system, she thinks it good or she would have her children educated where they live – in the Republic !!!!

  • cut the bull

    God bless you and help you william night night

  • William

    I don’t need help mate…you are the person who does….

  • Pete Baker


    Keep it civil, and play the ball!

    Now, back to the topic..

  • cut the bull

    Right pete end of

  • Billyo

    It’s game, set and match against her yet Ruane still thinks she is in with a chance to win by going and talking tactics with the ballboys.

    For pity sake will no one put her out of her misery? There must be lots of deep-seated misogyny within Sinn Fein for it to allow this poor deluded woman to continue to embarrass herself so blatantly.

  • cynic

    Only in the office for 20 days?

    Look on the positive side. The tennis season will soon be upon us so hopefully she will be in even fewer days and things will move along even better!

  • Fink

    Every time I see this woman’s face I want to scream, she’s got to be the single biggest reason not to vote Sinn Fein.

    Where is she bringing the policies exactly?

    A bit further forward on her desk?

    What a complete balls up.

  • drudger

    I think CR did exactly what the Churches (and as soon as they backed it the SDLP did) wanted and that was to try and achieve consensus. That is the reason that it wasn’t done sooner.

    Negotiations have to end now, the DUP refused to move, guidelines will now be issued.

    Unregulated yes, but the vast majority of schools do not want selection so that support should ensure that the guidelines result in success. The other schools, including one Catholic grammar in N Antrim who may be biased against CR anyway, will put in place tests and will face a hell of a struggle to maintain selection.

    This is where the tide turns. And for those who are anti-selection and attack CR for political reasons at least have the decency to point out the alternative way of dealing with the issue because Dominic Bradley among others hasnt given any alternative, he complains a lot but theres very little substance other than that.

    Lets not look at personalities, lets look at process because name calling, etc. doesnt benefit any child.


  • Mick Fealty


    Valid point on the SDLP. But set aside for the moment the controversial aspect of the problem, and ask yourself where is the evidence that the Minister’s consultation has had the least effect on the substance of her offering?

    In all of those conversations was she never offered an alternative course of action, or at least some techical suggestions for tightening up the intellectual case against selection?

    If she was, there is not not the least evidence that either she or her advisors were listening when they were made.

    It hasn’t helped either that she chose to completely by pass her senior civil servants never mind the Executive and the Education committee at critical points in the preparation of the policy never mind the committee who’s detailed questions she has ignored from the beginning.

    As I noted here nearly a year ago (http://url.ie/14nx) after that farce of a committee meeting:

    “Unwilling to engage in, never mind seek to win, a political fight in Stormont, the Minister may be set (intentionally or not) to engage in political warfare through the body of the schools themselves.”

    And so it has proven.

    Over and above the political ineptness of it all, the sheer absence of content in the Minister’s case leaves her in a weak position to play the blame game with the DUP.

    The threat she makes in the interview with Clarke is frankly worthless, since her scope for action (for instance, further tightening of financial pressures on the voluntary and Catholic Grammars) is as bound by law as those school governors her threats are aimed at.

    This was a set piece play intended on differentiating her party from the DUP. But the party has played the ‘no compromise’ card to such an extreme that it has transparently lost an argument that could have been theirs for the taking. It made the mistake of believing that rigidity is strength.

    Well it isn’t. It especially isn’t if you are not holding all the cards.

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    please don’t sack her…

  • Hogan

    Drudger don’t be coy!

    “The other schools, including one Catholic grammar in N Antrim who may be biased against CR anyway, will put in place tests and will face a hell of a struggle to maintain selection.”

    If you’re talking about my quality grammar-school Alma Mater, St Louis Ballymena being biased against Ruane then say just say so. Of course that would be the same St Louis Grammar school that educated my old classmate and the current SF MLA for North Antrim as well? Hardly an hotbed of anti-SF sentiment then.

    (Wanders off singing school song)…. St Louis St Louis ….with pride we salute you, …to your old traditions we’ll always we true….

    Wanders off

  • bona fide

    Mick, you say that CR ‘chose to completely by pass her senior civil servants’. Isn’t it possible that they have had and still have their own very fixed agenda? Surely civil servants are paid to co-operate with and work to achieve policies that any Minister champions. Maybe part of all the recent difficulties and stalling is in part due to arrogant, obstinate civil servants who don’t like having to relenquish their previsouly held power and who seem to have forgotten their station. Maybe a lot of them wish we were still in direct rule mode which allowed them to do pretty much as they wished. They enjoyed that system for far too long – we’re not there now and they need to get used to it. Their heel dragging certainly hasn’t helped progress this issue. All very unprofessional.

  • DC
  • dunreavynomore

    bona fide
    “seem to have forgotten their station”
    You tell them, bona fide, who the hell do they think they are?? Let them bow down before the tennis player and never mind that old ‘we are off our knees’stuff and equality stuff, sure we never meant it anyhow. reminds me of the old ditty ‘The working class can kiss my ass, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.’
    Would ‘know your station’ be part of modern Sinn Féin philosophy? Is that your idea of ‘change’?
    Bona fide, I have no doubt that some civil servants, just like the rest of us, carry baggage but to refer to them forgetting “their station” is beyond Lord Of The Manor and as a republican I find it disturbing that we have people thinking like that. The ministers job is to convince her stormont colleagues and the public, not to brow beat civil servants.

  • Mick Fealty

    bona fide,

    I absolutely agree that the intransigence of senior civil servants is a major problem taxing both the Irish and the UK states. Parties with a mandate should expect their wishes to be followed; not without question, there will always been fiscal and legal constraints on all manner of government innovation that cannot easily got around.

    Thus far, so good.

    But I have never come across a situation where the Minister has effectively maintained so complete an isolation from her civil servants that she has not even sought their advice before, during and after the announcement of a major policy innovation.

    If by ‘agenda’ you mean they would have advised her that she could not achieve that which she had as her objective by the means she proposed and since has acted upon, then with hindsight even the Minister must admit she would have benefited from said agenda.

    Her reliance on ‘advisers’, as opposed to ‘officials’ (in her second mentioning, she drops all reference to the latter) hints that Ms Ruane is taking direction from the party, rather than from its leadership inside the Stormont institutions.

    Such isolationism may have worked in the past. And whatever the ethical rights and wrongs of it, it has proven an unmitigated political disaster under the new indigenous regime.

  • bonafide

    dunreavey – chill out. and who said i was a republican or a fan of CR for that matter? I was pointing out that some senior civil servants seem to have forgotten that their place is to support thier minister – not deliberately stand in her way or rid roughshod over her proposals. that is all.

  • Dan Breen’s Revolver

    I know next to nothing about the education system in NI.

    However, taht women is one of the worst politicians I have ever seen on TV. She needs to be someone in the background, not as a goddamn minister. She picked the wrong profession.

    Not having anything to offer but rehashed policies and proposals is common for politicians…but being unable to spin or even come across as capable of seeming credible in an interview is rare in somewhat at that level.

  • Essentialist

    It appears that Sluggerites in general have the wrong end of the stick on the Ruane/DENI officials matter.
    The civil servants; Will Haire, Robson Davison, Stanley Gowdie and so on are the architects of this mess. Does anyone actually believe that Ruane, on the instruction of Sinn Fein advisers, thought this up on their own.
    This education issue epitomises the fundamental weaknesses of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly arrangements which are dependent upon mandatory coalition.
    Please stop wasting time on Ruane’s broken record it’s as useless as her tennis record.