NI ministers put forward last-minute proposals

17 Oct 02
The widely anticipated suspension of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly on October 14 was preceded by a flurry of important announcements by ministers before they left their jobs.

18 October 2002

The most dramatic decision was taken by the outgoing Education Minister Martin McGuinness, who abolished the 11-plus examination in the province from 2005. Consultations had shown support for ending it, but the speed with which the death blow was administered surprised many.

Minister for Finance and Personnel Sean Farren announced that the automatic retirement age for civil servants in Northern Ireland would rise from 60 to 65 from October 14. Farren also gave departments an extra £144m to spend, with £43m going to health and £29m for education. Another £19m this year and £47m next year was allocated to departments to implement Executive priorities, including an imaging centre for Belfast hospitals and better services for psychiatric patients.

Peter Robinson, the regional development minister, used his last day in office to accelerate progress on two major road schemes, including dualling and other improvements to the A6 connecting Northern Ireland's two major cities, Belfast and Londonderry. Another £1.1m is to be spent on major urgent road schemes. Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt allocated £3.85m to councils for waste management and improved recycling.

The last statement issued by outgoing Health Minister Bairbre de Brun – presumably aimed at her ministerial replacements from Westminster – was a plea to pursue the restructuring of health and social services in Northern Ireland.

While the incoming ministers at the Northern Ireland Office are not bound by the decisions taken by the devolved administration, it is considered unlikely they will be overturned.


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