Goodbye Catriona, Michelle & Conor; Hello Mitchel, Martina & John?

Now that the election is over, the new fun game for us political anoraks is guessing the names of the new ministers set to take office in the Executive next week. Whilst I’ve an idea that Mick has a thread in the pipeline to facilitate those seeking to anticipate the order of ministerial pickings, both the BBC and UTV carried speculation today that Sinn Fein is set to introduce a new panel of its elected representatives to the Executive, moving those currently holding ministerial posts into committee chair positions.

This is a good idea.

I’ve written repeatedly on Slugger about my concerns regarding Sinn Fein’s underwhelming performance at Assembly and Executive level to date, something which stems partially from the fact that the party has a smaller proportion of its elected representatives that could realistically be deemed as ministerial calibre than most of the other major parties.

Whilst every legislature has parties with elected members divided between those earning their crust as solid constituency working types with backbench profiles and another set of more technically conscious and articulate representatives more suited to the callings of office, Sinn Fein has built its success to date on the grassroots activism giving rise to a higher proportion of the former within its elected ranks than the latter.

This shortcoming has been compounded by the party’s salary cap policy which has acted as a disincentive to both potential elected representatives and (crucially) political advisers who could have helped address the skills deficit within the party’s ranks.

Thus, a strategy which aims to broaden the number of its elected representatives with the experience of holding office can only be a good thing, strengthening the skills base within the party at a time when the electoral woes of its primary electoral opponent (the SDLP) has reduced that party to a mere fourteen MLAs, just about enough to cover each ministerial office with little change left. Furthermore, the loss of experienced personnel from  the SDLP’s ranks- like Declan O’Loan and Tommy Gallagher- has meant that this strategy could further widen the gulf between the parties.

Therefore, my guesstimate would be that Mitchel McLaughlin be brought in to head DETI, with Sinn Fein’s second choice used up for Martina Anderson as either DCAL or Social Development Minister. By the time the third choice comes around, I can only speculate about the type of pickings that will be left, but I’d envisage John O’Dowd being given a chance to step up to the plate. That would leave the Junior Minister position for the party to ponder and, knowing the ever gender conscious nature of the party, I’d anticipate either Michelle O’Neill or Caral ni Chuilin getting the call on that one.

Of course, this is only speculation….but that’s why it’s fun!

  • JH

    Had figured Mitchel for Enterprise myself, he’s well capable

  • Mr Crumlin

    I wonder would this be Mitchel’s last assembly term. I like him but I have to say South Antrim SF needs to step up to the plate, particularly now the SDLP have lost their seat.

    On exec seats – sounds plausible. My experience as a former press type is when Mark Devenport says something it is mostly true.

    I’d like to see the Shinners finally take DCAL – although the pressure to deliver an Irish language act would be unbearable and the Dept has sod all money!

    I also really hope the parties can collectively sort out education. As a father of a 10 year preparing for selection I can tell you it is awful – the pressure put on kids at that age is a disgrace but I believe some sort of selection is necessary.

    I’m not a huge fan of Martina but I can see the logic and I think John O Dowd deserves a crack at the whip – I’ve been impressed by him over the last few years.

  • Chris Donnelly

    One caveat- I can’t see Martina in DCAL as, to my knowledge, she doesn’t speak Irish and I’d envisage the party wanting an Irish speaker (like McElduff possibly?) in that role.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Barry ‘keep her lit’ McElduff for DCAL – brilliant.

  • lamhdearg

    John O’Dowd is one of the few, i feel could cut it, in the real world, mitchel’s star lost it shine some time ago (i never heard why) and i would like to see him get a chance a showing if he is up to the job. martina can take the place of CATriona as the shinner with the most annoying voice, lets hope she will be better at her job.

  • You would imagine ‘things could only get better’ but ‘it ain’t necessarily so’. If O’Dowd became a Minister who would Sinn Fein put on Nolan to deflect all the Ministerial inadequacies (had to think for a while to find an appropriate and not too rude a term).

  • Cynic2

    John should have had it a long time ago – if only for propping Catatonia up for so long.

    The Water saga showed Conor was not on the ball. He has to go for there may soon be worse to come. Mitchel has always seemed a strong steady pair of hands

    As for Martina, she’s yet to prove that she’s other than a robotic mouthpiece so perhaps its put up time for her.

    I am not sure though that I agree that SF are pro-rata below the average standard. Look at some of the DUPs finest who held Ministerial Office (and weep)

  • Mike the First

    John O’Dowd – really?? Lordy.

    Are they trying to provde that Catriona Ruane wasn’t all that bad after all?

  • iluvni

    The prospect of any of those 3 goons in charge of anything makes the blood run cold.
    How in the name of sweet f*** is having Mitchel McLaughlin in charge of DETI a step in the right direction for Northern Ireland….he was arguing that Northern Ireland needs to join the friggin € a few weeks back.

  • whizzo

    Mitchell, Martina and Marty McG are all Derry wans. (Surely they can’t all hold office at once)
    O’Dowd, Murphy, Gildernew are various sorts of culchie.
    Catriona is free stater.
    Are there no SF Belfast MLAs who could hold down a ministry? (Even Gerry K only gets a “Junior”)

  • Driftwood

    What department does motability allowance come under?
    Surely a post for expert Alex Maskey here?

    been there done that sort of thing?

  • Dear god, if I’Dowd doesn’t get SOMETHING after firefighting for hopeless Ruane for so long, he should quit. Give me a bulldog over a rat any day.

  • Nordie Northsider

    You’d think SF would have learned from Martina Anderson’s performance as Unionist Outreach Officer – a hard station, admittedly, but she didn’t exactly shine. If the Shinners start allocating ministries with a view to boosting votes in stratetic constituencies then they really are going the Fianna Fáil route. I hope they don’t.

  • Magazine

    Martina as the DCAL Minister delivering the readies to the City of Culture project would certainly do no harm to her assault on Durkan’s Westminster seat… And as for her performance in Unionist Engagement, I’d say she did exactly what the party needed her to do at the time, they certainly seem to be pretty well engaged now…

  • Drumlins Rock

    Saw Michelle O’Neill at the Council count on Monday, if trade-offs are on the agenda how far she rises could be linked to Francie getting the speakers job, but she is def in the up and coming category.

  • Seimi

    Barry McIlduff was chair of the DCAL committee last time out. I think he would be a good call for the ministerial post. He’s friendly, and sharp. Plus – A minister with a sense of humour – that’d be different!

  • “Sinn Fein’s underwhelming performance at Assembly and Executive level”

    Chris, I think that accusation can be levelled at other parties too when you look, for example, at what passes for independent inquiries. However, Conor Murphy’s last minute appointment of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir as an additional NI Water NED is rather more serious than underwhelming; his micro management of the company and related matters has not been sufficiently explored to form a fair judgement on his or others parts in the fiasco.

  • J Kelly

    could someone post the order of picking

  • Cynic2

    Martina as the DCAL Minister delivering the readies to the City of Culture project

    ….. aye…that’s what they are there for right enough

  • Drumlins Rock

    J Kelly, I guessing that order will depend somewhat on the decision of a certain Mr McClarty. Gildernew got of lightly the last time, but if the trend is to change she will prob be shifted to a Committee Chair, making a Tyrone/Fermanagh more likely, would wee Barry cut it? or is O’Neill close enough.

  • Pόl Mac Niocail

    Couldn’t agree more Chris, great article. It has always been an issue that I have thought the party should address. With the new surge of candidates voted in at Council level, along with the increasing pressures on the new Assembly to implement legislation on the tougher issues, it is time to increase ‘office holder’ experience within the party.

    Political adviser roles should not be seen as a ‘stepping stone’ for standing at local council level. However, one of the major electoral strengths of the party has been the grass-roots activism that is inherent within the party. This has proved to be successful in recent elections, but this should not be the only aim of the party as it continues to grow.

    The next number of years are vital politically for the party in both the six and twenty six counties. The party will be stretched and scrutinised as it has never been before, and will require a greater and more varied skill base to support and orchestrate political campaigns that support the party objectives. If the party do seek to grow this skill base, I would envisage that this in turn will generate further support from sections of the electorate which had not previously voted for the party.

  • “Sinn Fein has built its success to date on the grassroots activism giving rise to a higher proportion of the former within its elected ranks than the latter.”

    Chris, just to broaden the focus slightly, SF and the DUP IMO have benefited at the ballot box from the provision of solid branch office support for constituents in need of assistance. As you quite rightly note the qualities necessary for this type of work may well fall far short of those needed to operate at a much higher level of governance.

    As an aside, does SF HQ air its local difficulties in public? Will we ever know what HQ makes of the North Antrim(?) decision to deselect Cathal Newcombe in Moyle, in the Ballycastle DEA, a decision that appears to have cost the party a seat on the local council? What about the rumblings in the Glens?