So the bets were lost!!! The Executive has had its shuffle and there are a few surprises - Sinn Fein has chosen to keep Eduation BUT has changed its personel to John O Dowd - replacing Caitriona Ruane. They have also opted for Agriculture and Culture. The DUP have went for Finance again with Sammy Wilson. They have also surprised many by going for Health - which can be a poisoned chalice ~(ie more of a headache than its worth!) They can however keep their manifesto commitments of keeping an investment into a Cancer Unit in the North West in Derry. The Alliance Party have been re elected by cross community vote to Justice - David Ford - and also have a new minstry at Employment and Learning. The UUP have Regional Development with Danny Kennedy and the SDLP have the talented Alex Atwood at Environment. Of course the First and Deputy first Minister remains unchanged with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness maintaining their positions.
The wars not over yet for Tom Elliot - he faces a tough weekend of questions with a meeting of the UUPs executive in Dungannon- Should he stay or should he go ? He has made apologies to nationalists over his
Current bets on the Executive are that the DUP will take FINANCE firstly (with Sammy Wilson tipped to remain in post) They are expected to go for EDUCATION next (but it is speculated that there may have been a deal made with Sinn Fein over this with the DUP promising moderation and not a wholesale return to the 11 plus) Arlene Foster is tipped for education
SINN FEIN are harder to read though it is widely tipped that they are aiming for the Department of Trade and Investment. (DETI) This is for a number of reasons - It is a high spending high profile position concentrating on the economy and jobs. One key weakness with Sinn Fein in the Southern Election was the Republic voters mistrust of their economic policies and experience (a fair charge considering the state of the Republics economy and the need for serious work) Sinn Fein are aiming to prove themselves in economic matters in the North as a way of attracting an all Ireland support - a key aim of theirs.
The UUP have one pick but it is rumoured to be Social development as this will help them appear to reach out to working class Protestant communities
Alliance are being reappoi9nted to Jus
At 6 o'clock tonight David McClarty confirmed that he is NOT going to rejoin the UUP as a matter of principle and integrity. This has left the UUP short of the number needed to take TWO EXECUTIVE positions. They will only get one. All
There is also a certain cloud hanging over Tom Elliots future as head of the UUP after his outburst at the voting centre calling Sinn Fein supporters 'scum' Many in his own party have voiced concern over his hardline attitude and this has been in stark contrast with Peter Robinson's forward thinking (ifdedication of his election victory to murdered policeman Ronan Kerr - Have the DUP and UUP had a personality swap!?!
Choosing a new NI Executive is gathering pace and should be underway by Thursday.
So far the DUP have the highest votes so will have the biggest choice of Ministries. They will stay on four ministries and they will have first choice, third choice, seventh and ninth choice.
Sinn Fein with three ministries have second, fifth and eighth choice.
The Ulster Unionists have one ministry and they have the fourth choice. The SDLP have the sixth choice.
Alliance has the tenth choice providing there is not a huge legal wrangle.
The speculation is that the Ulster Unionists might try and recruit David McClarty their former member. He fell out with his local constituency office and became an independent. If that were to happen it could have implications for whether the Ulster Unionists got another ministry.
So its all over.... Northern Ireland has a new Assembly elected- or does it? In many ways little has changed...
However there are a number of key changes we should really be aware of:
1) The turnout is estimated at 54% this is very low and worrying for any democracy. Can it really be said that the assembly has a true mandate if only over half the electorate voted? Does this reveal voter apathy? Does it show that people are bored with the assembly? Don't trust it or have lost interest?
2) A TWO PARTY SYSTEM? What is very clear is that the DUP and Sinn Fein have both triumphed at this election. The DUP in particular has increased its MLA's What does this show? Well it shows Peter Robinson is against all the odds safe in charge. It also safeguards the First Minister position. It also shows that the DUP is now the absolute dominant voice of Unionism with the UUP and others trailing in its wake. Sinn Fein has shown itself again to be increasing the vote.. at the expense of the SDLP.
3) Continuing decline of moderate parties. Yet again the architects of the GFA - the UUP and SDLP have slipped back. Margaret Ritchies SDLP have slipped back slightly and the UUP have suffered significantly with question marks on the leadership - they have faced a battle for relevancy with Tom Elliot raising few soundbites except by calling Sinn Fein scum. Is it yet again time for new leadership - Could Basil McCrea go for it again? Could someone new like Mike Nesbitt benefit? It certainly needs direction
4) Executive positions... this is the big question. Sinn Fein may go for a Trade and Investment portfolio - to show voters in the Republic and North that they have economic credibility - something Adams was criticised for lacking in the ROI general election. DUP may go for finance ; and education with the goal of some form of integrated education. Sinn Fein may sacrifice Caitriona Ruane in favour of Martina Anderson - for a trade post.
It should be interesting to see if the DUP will let Nationalists have the role of Speaker (Willy Hays position (DUP) as promised - they look set to renege on this promise.
5) Conor McDevitt succeeds to get elected ; Peter Robinson gets an election boost in his constituency which puts pressure on Naomi Long
6) TUV - despite all the rhetoric they posed little challenge to unionism - only serving to split the vote in areas
7) Alliance - There is no doubt Alliance has benefited with an increase in seats and share of vote. This may have been helped with the Justice ministry. The Greens too have succeeded in keeping a seat
8) The key talking point in the election was the election itself and the slow and disorganised counting system. Discussions are underway to adopt an electronic voting system
Mr John Wishart -