Northern Ireland

DUP reshuffle: Foster, Bell and Hamilton in new jobs

Three moves in top jobs at Stormont
Image caption There have been three moves in top jobs at Stormont

Democratic Unionist MLA Simon Hamilton is to become Northern Ireland's new health minister.

It follows the resignation of Jim Wells last month after he made remarks linking child abuse with same-sex relationships.

Arlene Foster replaces Mr Hamilton as the finance minister, in a reshuffle of the DUP's ministerial positions.

She is being replaced at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment by party colleague Jonathan Bell.

The new junior minister is Michelle McIlveen.

Ms Foster, an assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, held the enterprise portfolio since 2008.

New ministers

  • Health Minister Simon Hamilton
  • Finance Minister Arlene Foster
  • Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell

Mr Hamilton, a Strangford assembly member, has been finance minister for just under two years. However, after the controversy involving his predecessor Jim Wells, he was made a stand-in health minister.

He is now takes over the full health portfolio, giving him stewardship of almost 50% of the Northern Ireland Executive's budget.

He said: "The health and social care sector in Northern Ireland is something we should all be very proud of and it is a privilege for me to hold the position of minister.

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Media captionSimon Hamilton said he wanted to ensure the best standards of health and social care

"I can assure the public that despite the budget and resource challenges I face, I will continue to strive for excellence in the care we provide.

"There will be tough decisions ahead, but I will not shy away from doing what's right."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the minister would be expected to issue new abortion guidelines "as a matter of urgency".

"The former health minister had indicated that he intended to bring guidelines for health professionals on termination of pregnancy to the executive within weeks," the spokesman said.

"We would expect that Minister Hamilton will consider this issue as a matter of urgency."


Among the issues he faces are abortion legislation and pending court action over maintaining a ban on blood donation from gay men.

Mr Hamilton's brief will also include prescription charges to pay for specialist drugs, potential hospital closures and negotiating with unions.

He said: "I would like to pay tribute to all staff in the health and social care sector, as well as staff from the ambulance and fire service.

"I know that they feel the stresses and strains of their work and I, along with the public, am grateful for their dedication and commitment."

BBC News NI health correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly said the new health minister is "arriving to a brimming in-tray".

"It's a massive brief, that deals with around half of the executive's budget and crosses over all other ministerial departments."

Mr Bell, 45, has been a junior minister and is also a Strangford assembly member.

Correction, 25th May 2015 : An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Jonathan Bell had been appointed to the position of Health Minister.

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