I was somewhat puzzled by the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew’s reference in her latest ministerial statement to “shaping the rural communitys future prosperity and quality of life through my role as Rural Champion” – “The role of Rural Champion has been developed to highlight the functions and responsibilities of everyone involved in the countryside.” Which makes it sound like a new public appointment, a “Rural Tsar” as it were, or a “Rural Commissioner”, separate from her actual position as a NI Executive Minister. In fact, the consultation document [available here], and launched on 13 August 2008, refers to it more accurately as a “concept” as part of a review of policy making.
2.3 Therefore to ensure that rural issues are considered in all Executive policy making, the concept of a Rural Champion has been developed. DARD sees this developing as a collective approach, rather than a role for any individual. This approach is not to avoid personal responsibility but rather to identify distinct roles that people and organisations in all levels of governance and society can play in developing rural policy.
Still, “Champion” sounds better than “Tsar”.. although it is a work in progress. Maybe we should have an Education Champion too? And a Health Champion? Other related consultation documents here.