Not surprising, really, that the DUP continues to rally around Iris Robinson. Yesterday she was defended by First Minister Peter Robinson, which I suppose is to be expected, and by junior minister for equality (including gay rights) Jeffrey Donaldson. The tack has been that, yes, we are for equality in principle, but Iris has the right to express her personal religious beliefs. Except, as I think Martina Anderson pointed out, it isn’t a question of her private beliefs – it’s a question of whether it’s appropriate for the chair of the health committee to be publicly claiming that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder that can be cured with treatment.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. The reshuffle of DUP ministers following Robbo’s elevation to the top job shows that the new regime is a stronghold of technocracy and the appointment of well-qualified representatives to their areas of expertise. Ministerial appointments have absolutely nothing to do with raising MLAs’ profiles ahead of the next Westminster election.
So, as predicted, Nigel Dodds moves up to finance, while the underwhelming Arlene Foster takes his old portfolio of enterprise. Given that Arlene hasn’t exactly impressed in environment, Robbo must see something we don’t, because her Executive position couldn’t rest purely on the desire to boost her electoral chances in Fermanagh. Could it? Meanwhile, Edwin Poots at culture finds that his own electoral profile in Lagan Valley was surplus to requirements, at least until Jeffrey Boy starts getting itchy feet and looking for yet another party.
I’m impressed by the élan Robbo has shown in appointing Sammy Wilson minister of the environment. Bearing in mind Sammy’s reputation as Stormont’s leading global warming denier, that might seem like a dumb move. But look on the bright side. We all know that Sammy is a strong exponent of going back to nature, in the most literal sense. This could be the new dawn that Norn Iron’s streaking community have been waiting for.
But even that’s topped by the appointment of Gregory Campbell as minister for culture. Saints preserve us. As connoisseurs of his Talk Back performances will know, Gregory is an absolute menace and shouldn’t really be allowed within a hundred yards of a microphone. Which begs the question – is Robbo pulling a Machiavellian manoeuvre, giving his potential rivals sufficient rope to hang themselves? Or is he just taking the piss?