[lg policy] Northern Ireland: Greens and Irish language activists hope for change in DUP direction

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 24 15:52:27 UTC 2009

Greens and Irish language activists hope for change in DUP direction

By Steven McCaffery
Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Eenvironmental campaigners and Irish language activists are both
hopeful that a major DUP ministerial re-shuffle could spell a more
postive future for the two controversial issues.

Campaigners welcomed a change in the team of Executive ministers after
it was announed that Sammy Wilson, who hit the headlines for rejecting
mankind's role in global warming, has been promoted to become Finance
Minister. Party leader Peter Robinson had promised a shake-up for some
time, but the changes come after his party suffered criticism in the
European election campaign over ‘double jobbing' politicians. Deputy
leader and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds leaves the post of Finance
Minister, with East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell ceasing his job as
Culture Minister and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson stepping-down
as Junior Minister.

Mr Wilson swaps the environment brief for the job of Finance Minister,
while North Belfast Assembly member Nelson McCausland takes on the
sensitive Culture ministry.  Fermanagh Assembly member Arlene Foster
remains as Enterprise Minister, while former Culture Minister Edwin
Poots rejoins the government to become Environment Minister. East
Belfast representative Robin Newton becomes a Junior Minister.  The
changes, which will come into effect after the current Assembly term
ends later this month, mean the DUP has now reduced the number of
sitting MPs who also hold a minister's job in the Northern Ireland

Mr Robinson and the new Finance Minister Sammy Wilson will still be
MPs, ministers and Assembly members, while Mr Wilson is also a
councillor on Belfast City Council. The DUP leader has said, however,
that he also expects his double-jobbing MPs to choose between sitting
in Westminster or Stormont.  The move had been expected for some time
but it was, nevertheless, seen to have taken on greater significance
as a result of the election campaign.

The DUP won one of the three European parliament seats up for grabs in
Northern Ireland, with Mr Dodds' wife Diane elected as the party's new
MEP. But the party vote plummeted from a 32% vote share in the last
Euro poll in 2004 to 18.2%.  Two appointments are likely to prove
controversial. In his role as Environment Minister Mr Wilson hit the
headlines for denying the conventional wisdom on global warming by
insisting he did not believe that mankind was to blame for climate
change. Mr Wilson also sparked criticism for claiming that jobs should
go to Northern Ireland-born workers before economic migrants.

Gregory Campbell steps down as Culture Minister where he drew
criticism from the Irish language sector over his refusal to back
full-blown legislation to support the language. Sinn Fein and the SDLP
have called for the introduction of an Irish Language Act, similar to
the legislation protecting Gaelic languages in Scotland and Wales. But
Mr Campbell's replacement Nelson McCausland is also seen as a hardline
figure on cultural issues. Mr McCausland has been at the forefront of
the DUP policy of investing in the Ulster-Scots sector to help it
catch up with the large Irish language sector.

Green Party Assembly member Brian Wilson said he was glad that Sammy
Wilson was leaving the Department of the Environment.
“I welcome the departure of Sammy Wilson who in his year as
Environment Minister put the cause of climate change back by at least
10 years,” he said. \[Michael McCready\]”I hope that now in his new
position as Finance Minister he will not continue to frustrate efforts
to address this issue by holding back necessary funds.

“I urge the new Environment Minister to take a much more positive
approach and ensure that Northern Ireland plays a full part in UK
efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and tackle climate change.” Friends of
the Earth's Northern Ireland campaigner Lisa Fagan welcomed the
appointment of a new Environment Minister. She said: “We urge the new
minister to introduce a Climate Bill at Stormont, requiring mandatory
annual cuts in Northern Ireland's carbon emissions, and introduce a
Planning Policy Statement on climate change, reflecting the critical
role of the planning system in delivering a low-carbon economy.”

Sinn Fein Assembly member Barry McElduff said the appointment of a new
DUP Culture Minister should be used as an opportunity for the unionist
party to adopt a new approach to the Irish language. He said: “The
track record of successive DUP Culture Ministers in relation to An
Ghaeilge has, to date, been disgraceful. Their approach has been
minimalist and often insulting.”  He said the introduction of an Irish
language act was promised in the St Andrews Agreement that paved the
way for establishing the power-sharing administration at Stormont.

But Mr McElduff said successive DUP Culture Ministers had opposed the
move and he called on Nelson McCausland to protect the
language.\[Michael McCready\] The DUP has also come in for criticism
over the accumulated wages of double jobbing politicians.
Mr Robinson and his wife Iris were dubbed the 'Swish family Robinson'
in media reports that claimed the combined political wages and
expenses of the couple, and family members they employ, totalled
£571,939.41 a year. The Ulster Unionist Party, which has signed-up to
an electoral pact with the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland,
dismissed the DUP reshuffle.

“The truth is that the reshuffle is only happening because David
Cameron said he would make double jobbing illegal if the DUP didn't
give it up,” said Ulster Unionist David McNarry. “The resulting DUP
reshuffle will not fool the unionist electorate either. What does it
matter?”  Nelson McCausland came in for criticism from the Traditional
Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister.  Mr McCausland has been
ejected from the Assembly twice for claiming in the Chamber that Sinn
Fein President Gerry Adams was a former IRA leader. Mr Allister asked
how Mr McCausland could join a government jointly led by Sinn Fein's
Martin McGuinness, who openly confirms he was a former IRA member.

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