Last night I finally got round to watching Stormont Today from Monday night. The program featured an interview with the new Minister for Health, Edwin Poots.
It came as no surprise that the issue of Budget was raised quickly. There was no end of arguments between the UUP & it's Minister, Michael McGimpsey and Sinn Fein & the DUP over the budget before the election. As far as the DUP were concerned, the budget given to Health was fair and complaints from McGimpsey that it was inadequate and posed a real risk to the service were invalid and raised for political purposes only.
When asked if he intended to stay within budget, this was Poots chance to state categorically that it wouldn't be a problem. After all, that was the DUP's position 6 weeks ago, why should it have changed. What Poots actually said was that he would aim to work within the budget and that if he needed to ask for more money it would be because he genuinely needed it and not for political purposes.
You would expect that Poots would have been taken to task on this. He had just effectively said that when the UUP say they Health Service needs more money, it's for political gain and yet when the DUP do it, it's genuine. There is no evidence to support this and, ironically, shows that Poots is the one playing politics with health and not McGimpsey. How can he be so sure McGimpsey didn't need any more money before the election, yet after barely a day in the job, he is now not so sure? However, there was no follow up. The interview ended and Poots was able to leave without having to explain his shift in position.
Following that, there is stories in the media today that Poots is going to review the decision of McGimpsey to put the radiotherapy unit at Altnagevin on hold. This story is played pretty positively for Poots because this again is a shift in position from Poots. Before and during the election, much was played by the DUP of the decision to delay the construction of the unit as a mistake and that there were no valid reasons not to go ahead. Why now, does Poots need to review the decision? Why not just reverse it as was the inference from the DUP over the last 6 weeks?
It will be interesting to see how long Poots is given to make the decisions that, 6 weeks ago, he and his party were so sure were easy to make.