Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 16:47 UK

DUP reshuffles assembly ministers

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson has replaced Nigel Dodds as finance minister

Sammy Wilson has replaced Nigel Dodds as finance minister as part of a DUP reshuffle aimed at ending so-called double jobbing.

Edwin Poots will take over from Mr Wilson as environment minister, while Nelson McCausland is the new minister for culture, arts and leisure.

Arlene Foster will remain as the minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

East Belfast MLA Robin Newton replaces Jeffrey Donaldson as junior minister.

DUP leader Peter Robinson promised the reshuffle following the party's worst European election results since 1979.

Mr Robinson said he had made an exception in Mr Wilson's case and had allowed the East Antrim representative to remain as a Stormont minister and a Westminster MP. Mr Wilson also sits on Belfast City Council.

"In keeping with our previously announced intention to phase out multiple mandates, all but one of my parliamentary colleagues will leave ministerial office," he said.

Deckchairs

The changes will come into effect after the current Assembly term ends later this month.

"New appointments will take effect after a period of briefing with outgoing ministers. I will announce new committee chairmanships before the end of this week," Mr Robinson added.

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister said Monday's reshuffle amounted to "nothing more than a rearranging of the deckchairs on the Titanic".

"The ordinary voter in the street will doubtless feel some bemusement at Nelson McCausland taking a post in the Executive alongside the IRA's political wing after being thrown out of the Assembly chamber twice for attacking Sinn Fein's links to criminality," he said.

"And how does Sammy Wilson's retention in the Executive square with the DUP's pledge to end double jobbing - an issue highlighted by TUV during the election?"

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said there had been speculation that Arlene Foster would be moved to the finance role, but more recently it had been heard that she did not like that idea.

He said the most surprising development was Mr Newton's promotion to junior minister because the young Strangford MLA Simon Hamilton had been favourite to take that job.

Monday's move had been expected for some time but it was seen to have taken on greater significance as a result of this year's European election campaign.

The DUP won one of the three European parliament seats in Northern Ireland, with Mr Dodds' wife Diane elected as the party's new MEP.

However, the party lost votes to the TUV, dropping from a 32% first preference vote share in the 2004 European poll to 18.2% this year.



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