Labour MP takes over for long spell of direct rule

October 18, 2002

A Labour MP has taken over ministerial responsibility for Northern Ireland's universities and colleges with the return of direct rule.

Jane Kennedy, MP for Liverpool Wavertree, also takes on the security portfolio and the main schools-education brief previously filled by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

The appointment of extra backbench MPs to take over the province's ten departments was being interpreted as an indication that the government believes the suspension of Ulster's institutions will be a long one.

Ms Kennedy faces decisions on the financially troubled "peaceline" campus at Springvale and on the student fees and loans issue.

A joint universities trip to China will now be without higher education minister Carmel Hanna. The assembly's all-party scrutiny committee, which closely monitored policy on further and higher education, has also collapsed, along with cross-border work under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council.

An on-going review of further education could also be delayed.

Ms Hanna was prominent in putting through a series of measures, including a new grievance and disciplinary code and industrial action ballots, on the last day of the assembly on Monday.

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