Northern Ireland needs Ministers who will take difficult decisions, says Ford

Alliance MLA David Ford has said any restored Executive needs Ministers prepared to take difficult decisions while in office.

Mr Ford, who was Minister of Justice for six years, said there was “little point” in having Ministers who would not do so, especially regarding the Budget. He added during his time in office, he saw many examples of Ministers who were not prepared to take decisions because they would be unpopular in the short-term.

“As Minister, I oversaw a programme of transformation which protected frontline services, including by our voluntary sector partners. In addition, there were significant reductions in the budget for the core Department, especially in back office services.

“For one example, I decided to close courthouses which were not needed, in order to save significant funding for the Courts Service and the Prison Service. Yet when my successor reversed that decision, MLAs from other parties praised what was a damaging choice, which even now is adding to the Department’s financial problems.

“My colleague Stephen Farry also tried to reduce the subsidy to teacher training, which results in Northern Ireland training far more teachers than we need, at a cost to the local Budget. This decision was called-in to the Executive and overturned by the four other parties.

“We cannot afford such cheap populism. Budgets need to be directed to where the money will be most effective and major reforms are needed, in services such as health and education. The question has to be asked as we seek to restore devolution – are potential Ministers from other parties now capable of taking the difficult decisions they failed to take in the past?”

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