Lagan Valley DUP MLA Edwin Poots is the new minister at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in NI.
He is the first man to take up the role since the power-sharing executive was formed in 1999, following on from his party colleague Michelle McIlveen who held the post from 2016 to 2017, and Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, who led DAERA from 2011 to 2016.
Prior to that both Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew and the SDLP’s Brid Rogers had been Minister for Agriculture.
Economy, finance and education
With all major parties taking up seats in the new executive, DAERA was the last pick out of seven government departments. As expected, the DUP chose the Department for the Economy first, putting the soon to be ex-MEP Diane Dodds into that role. Dodds was co-opted into the assembly just before Christmas, replacing the new MP Carla Lockhart in Upper Bann.
Following that, Sinn Féin chose the Department for Finance, with Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy taking the post. DUP MLA Peter Weir is the new Minister for Education, with Deirdre Hargey from Sinn Fein taking the Department for the Communities, and SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon the new Infrastructure Minister.
That left one department for the Ulster Unionist Party, who perhaps surprisingly chose health over agriculture, putting former leader, and former president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, Robin Swann into the role.
The other government department is Justice, with the Alliance Party leader Naomi Long agreeing to take that position outside of the standard mechanism for allocating departments.
Poots: his background
In terms of Edwin Poots’ credentials to lead the agriculture department, he comes from a farming background, and was previously a student at Greenmount College in Antrim.
An experienced politician, Poots was NI Minister for Health from 2011 to 2014, and before that was Minister for the Environment, and also had a 13-month stint as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure.
He has also served on the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs committee, and was a strong supporter of Brexit in the runup to the 2016 referendum.
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