FIRST Minister Peter Robinson axed two of his ministers in a reshuffle to send out a message to his knockers: I’m still party leader.
GONE is Health Minister Edwin Poots who recently challenged his party’s finance minister Simon Hamilton to give him more money to prop up the health service.
Swooping in to replace him is the ‘bird man of south Down’ Jim Wells MLA who must have thought he was never get the post.
GONE is Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland who provoked a political storm after a BBC Spotlight investigation into his handling of the Red Sky contract with the Housing Executive and allegations of political interference.
Replacing Mr McCausland is Ballymone MLA Mervyn Storey. He said his biggest challenge was the introduction of welfare reforms which were being opposed by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.
Mr Robinson later said the two ministers who were now heading to the back benches in the Assembly had “done a tremendous job”.
“As we lead up to elections, we wanted to settle things within the party, we wanted to put a fresh team in there, let new ideas flow through and give people an opportunity to show just what they can do,” he said.
“In doing that, there isn’t one of the ministers, committee chairs or deputy chairs who are being moved around that I wouldn’t be prepared to reappoint in the future.”
Other DUP changes include
* Mr McCausland will chair the culture, arts and leisure committee, replacing Michelle McIlveen who moves to chair the education committee;
Trevor Clarke is chairman of the regional development committee, replacing Jimmy Spratt;
Alastair Ross replaces Paul Givan as justice committee chair;
Brenda Hale will take the place of Mr Ross on the Policing Board
Paula Bradley replaces Mr Wells as vice chair of the health committee
William Irwin will take over from Paul Frew as chair of the agriculture committee.