Dysfunctional? Or just incompetent?

Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker has called on the NI Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane, to apologise to the House after the minister failed to make a scheduled statement on her department’s programme of capital building schemes.  From the BBC report

The minister later explained she had mistakenly stayed in another meeting until 1033 BST, three minutes after she should have been addressing MLA’s.

She also failed to supply MLAs with a copy of her statement half an hour before she was due to deliver it as she is required to under standing orders.

The only member to receive a copy was the DUP’s Mervyn Storey who chairs the Assembly’s Education committee.

Mr Storey received a copy at 1020 BST. He described the minister as “amateurish”.

Meanwhile the DUP and Sinn Féin clashed after the DUP withdrew their support for a Bill intended to reform the Assembly’s expenses system.

According to the UTV PA report

DUP MLA Peter Weir said his party withdrew support for the passage of the Allowances to Members of the Assembly (Repeal) Bill at Stormont precisely because MLAs should not be voting on their salaries.

He claimed the result of passing Monday night’s legislation would have been a vote on a new allowances bill.

“Sinn Fein is sorely mistaken in believing that this Bill would have created an independent body,” he said.

“In fact, preventing this Bill from passing is the only position consistent with the principle Sinn Fein espouses but doesn’t seem to want to practise.”

But, as Mark Devenport points out on his blog, nothing in the Bill should have been a surprise to the DUP, or their representative on the Assembly Commision

The truly surprising aspect of this row is that the brief bill which had been due to get accelerated passage through the Assembly last night was the product of many months’ consideration by the Stormont commission (the cross party committee which runs the Assembly). The Commission backed a two stage process, first abolishing the current regime (with effect from September), then putting in place a new allowances scheme to be superintended by a new Independent Statutory Body.

It may be that the DUP has a point in arguing that this two stage process puts the cart before the horse, and the Independent Body should be set up immediately. But whey then did their representative on the Commission, Stephen Moutray, not make that argument at a much earlier stage in the proceedings? The explanatory notes to last night’s ill fated bill make it clear that the Commission “has given extensive consideration to a number of issues relating to the pay, pensions and expenditure of Members”. Its recommendations followed on from previous reports from the Senior Salaries Review Body and the courses of actions already taken by the Welsh assembly and the Scottish parliament.

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  • Johnny Boy

    Caitriona Ruane is the poster girl for the incompetence of the assembly.

  • delta omega

    In answer to the question in the title, these are not mutually exclusive and when it comes to the folks on the hill both are equally applicable.

  • salem

    Caitriona – needs to turn up to class on time,

  • joeCanuck

    You just beat me to it.

  • Christo

    Surely SF have to recognise this woman is incompetent and needs to be replaced with someone who makes them look much less amature.

  • Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

  • Oracle

    This woman is Sinn Fein at it’s best….

    keep up the excellent work Caitriona and eventually one day your grandchildren will be driving through Belfast looking at all the statues that will be errected to commemorate your existance

  • Neil


  • Critical Alien

    I like the use of ‘just’ qualifying incompetent. It’s like ‘merely incompetent’, in the sense of nothing noteworthy – what we’ve come to expect.

    Ruane does outdo many in terms of her ability to appear incapable, though. Supposedly refuses to hear advice, attend meetings and carry out other parts of her job that she deems unsuitable (therein lies the dysfunctionalism). Then she makes opaque decisions, shocking in their apparent awfulness, and has so low a public profile that rarely is there even any post-hoc explanation forthcoming. Terrible representation, if it can be called representation at all.

  • Neil

    I reckon that’s the problem. Certainly plenty of people (myself included) would have been happy to see another way of sorting out the transfer other than the 11+, however she’s alienated a large percentage of whatever support there was by refusing to stand in front of the scrutiny committee and explain her actions. She has all the petulance of a French footballer.

    To get a dig in on the other side the DUP needs to learn how to make a decision and roll with it. The constant last minute change of hearts is boring and expensive.

  • Brian O’Neill

    They fact that SF don’t let her talk in public, and that John O’Dowd is her representative on earth says it all.

  • socaire

    A Tadhg, a woman, a Sinn Féiní, a Southern accent. What has the Minister got going for her?

  • Henry94

    You’re seven minutes late Mr Collins..

  • willis

    Did she really say this:

    “The minister said the real issue was that her statement outlined the problems she would have in paying for new schools which she had now approved, after a lengthy review.

    She said the majority had been shown to be worth building but she needed more money to carry them through. ”

    Given that a majority could be a slow as 51% it might be worth knowing which ones are not worth building.

  • willis

    as low as

  • joeCanuck

    Well, she does appear to be a slow learner.

  • An apparently slow learner running the education department?

  • Stephen Blacker

    I hope the apology was given in Irish and Ulster Scot’s as well as English. Cant miss an opportunity to waste tax payer’s money.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    They’re the least of her problems.

  • Big Maggie

    Why are so many of you being horrible towards Caitriona?

    She’s a tennis player, FFS! Wimbledon began yesterday. You hardly expect her to focus all her attention on the boring business at Stormont, now do you?

    I mean, it’s not as if we’re paying her to be there or anything….

  • A tennis player? Well, that makes all the difference…I must agree about not paying however, Im definitely not!

  • Seymour Major

    Dont know about how good she is at tennis but she runs a racket with a lousy service.

  • Big Maggie

    From Wiki: “Ruane is a former professional tennis player who represented Ireland in the Fed Cup.”

    That’s good enough for me. I mean, if that doesn’t qualify a lass to be Education Minister then what the blazes does?

  • Big Maggie

    And did Wiki happen to mention this former professional tennis players world ranking?

    BTW . just a thought, how about, at the very least, a rudimentary understanding of the educational needs and systems.

    I really hope you, like me, are not paying for this ‘professionalism’.

  • Pete Baker

    Has anyone read the original post beyond the initial paragraph and quote?

  • Pete Baker

    But everyone knows the DUP are incompetent, unless your’re talking about property deals.

  • Pete Baker

    Missing the point somewhat, pip.

    The title of this post does not refer to any individual minister.

  • Big Maggie


    “I really hope you, like me, are not paying for this ‘professionalism’.”

    Thankfully no. I’m retired for a while now and enjoying my twilight years without having to give financial support to the likes of Ruane.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Some of the bashing that Ruane comes in for is well earned and I have always regarded her as a liability for SF; that’s not to say that some of it is plain straightforward sexism and I dare say some of it derives from her being born outside the 6 counties too.

  • Pete Baker

    No. It’s because the Executive is dysfunctional and she is incompetent.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Personally I couldn’t care less where she comes from — as a parent of young kids I just want results and clarity. Even by the woefully low standard of the assembly, Ruane is an abject failure, further compounded by her pig headed beligerence and hapless Irish language crusade.

  • Pete Baker

    Speaking for myself, the expenses aspect was entirely to be expected. The DUP behaved true to form and any ‘clash’ regarding expenses will, Im sure, be short lived. There is no such thing as an ‘independent body’ in the north.

    Ms Ruane was mildly amusing, especially when the tennis aspect was introduced. I mean are we talking racquet or racket.

  • Pete Baker

    Still missing the point.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Opinion, not fact.

  • Nunoftheabove

    So it’s her policies you object to ?

  • Pete Baker

    No, you don’t get it! No two people ‘read’ the same thing, especially on a site like this. You think the Assembly is dysfunctional and thats news. I think its always been dysfunctional and concentrate on particular issue/s.

    I concentrated on Ms Ruane because her policies, implementation and even her presentation of those policies leave a lot to be desired. I mentioned the expenses because although less important than education it always puts my back up.

  • Cynic

    Princess Anne’s former husband Mark Phillips used to attract the nickname ‘Fog’ – thick and wet

    I think it could come back into fashion

  • Cynic

    Has anyone ever found out why she is so favoured within SF when she’s so lamentably lacking in obvious talent?

  • vanhelsing

    most female tennis players are meant to be fit and pretty – she probably played some equality card to get into the team…

  • vanhelsing

    it must be her good looks surely…

  • vanhelsing

    oh and fair play to Peter Weir for his comments. The MLAs should not be voting on their own salaries, we do need a completely independent body and not a 2 step shimmy to get there.

  • Nunoftheabove

    See ? Told you there was an element of sexism in this.

  • Freya

    I was told recently that her grandfather was a prominent republican in his day which is why she is the apple of Adams eye. Unfortunately I can’t remember the man’s name as it meant nothing to me at the time.

  • Kevin McIlhennon

    Socaire, when I dared say to a few Shinners that I thought Caitríona is a pretty useless Education Minister, I was told that people only said that because she was a southerner and a woman. I know they are simply using subterfuge because I’m not going to say something based on those points. I think she’s useless because she appears unable to complete even the simplest task. And SF’s education ‘policy’ is hardly the best. That is why people think she’s useless, not the fact she’s from the 26 counties, is a Taig, a Shinner and a woman.

  • vanhelsing

    get over yourself

  • Neil

    That’s as may be, but as Davenport reports above they had ample opportunity to raise concerns, instead of waiting ’til the very last minute. The Welsh, Scottish and English Parliaments have all got their procedures in place. Here in NI, yet again, the DUP have waited until the very last minute and decided against it, ensuring that we’ve made no progress where everyone else has finished the job. They did the same thing last week with the 26 councils, and previously with the Maze, to name but two examples.

    They resemble confused children, deciding on a course of action then chickening out at the last minute for one reason or another. It’s quite expensive though, paying these gits (SF and DUP primarily) to meet, discuss and study a course of action, only to get put back to square one when it comes time to shit or get off the pot.

  • GillPops

    nope… it’s fact! executive is dysfunctional and incompetent. too much evidence to show this. you wanna make some savings in Northern Ireland?? if we can’t get rid of it lets at least get rid of half the MLA’s. we only have a pop of 1.8 mill do we really need more than 50 MLA’s??


  • vanhelsing


    I think the point may be to get it right rather than make a quick stab of it. Clearly getting right the mechanism to set MLA salaries is important and as Mark D points out later in the blog,

    ‘So, the public may ask, is the important point at issue the principle that an Independent Body should rule on all these matters, or the inevitable delay that there will now be to implementing the changes to the expenses regime? ‘

    I for one would be prepared to wait to get it right…

  • Neil

    My preference would be for them to get it right through doing their jobs in a timely fashion, instead of discussing and agrreing to a course of action then at the very last minute deciding that no, we won’t go along with this as previously said and now all the work that has gone in up to this point has left the Commission’s carefully constructed scheme is in tatters in Davenports words.

    Again I point out that this is not the first time the DUP has done this, using the 26 councils as a case in point, millions spent on it already, yes it’s on, no it’s not, back on again and finally Poots says no. The idea is to not reinvent the wheel, not to spend months working on something where everyone appears to be in agreement, then have to go back to the start because the DUP have decided 11 councils will mean a loss of power for the DUP, or that the expenses bill which will prevent Ian Jr. renting his office for 57k a year because he has a relationship with the property owner and because property payments will be linked now to actual value (shock), and will prevent half the DUP employing their extended family which money now having been spent on, and where the DUP could have raised their concerns months ago, has been again left til the final whistle and they’ve again flipped and changed their minds.

    All this means is work getting repeated over and over again, which is the definition of incompetent. If I had to repeat every project I worked on I’d get sacked, cause it’s a massive waste of money. Now I’ll happily criticise Catriona because of her pish poor attitude, but it seems you think the DUP are the epitome of professionalism for sitting on a report for months and when it’s time to rubber stamp it, pull the rug out, change your mind and send everyone back to square one. Absolute madness.

  • vanhelsing


    ———-Now I’ll happily criticise Catriona because of her pish poor attitude, but it seems you think the DUP are the epitome of professionalism for sitting on a report for months and when it’s time to rubber stamp it, pull the rug out, change your mind and send everyone back to square one—————

    Didn’t say that from my post at all. My point was simply that the decision the DUP took was to ensure a fully independant body took these deicisons and that should be done immed.

    You’re very ready to criticise Stormont and the workings therein – I would imagine that as slow and winding the decisions are, and all parties get it wrong it is much better than the alternative.

    I don’t want to get into a discussion on which party is the best at goverance and it to end in a nah nah nah argument. I could list endless poor decisions that ministers from all parties have taken – just not sure how useful that would be.

    Regarding the councils there does appear to have been a bit of flip flop..