Following Mr Justice Treacy’s ruling last week that Health Minister Edwin Poots breached ministerial code by upholding the ban on gay men giving blood (by failing to bring such a cross cutting and controversial matter to the Executive Committee), First Minister, Peter Robinson was questioned on the issue during topical questions. In response to Ian Milne’s question, Mr Robinson said that no member of the Executive Committee had asked for the matter to be discussed and that if every difficult issue is brought to the Committee then no Minister would be able to make a decision. This would result in a “considerable burden on the Executive”. He also revealed his suspicion that any decision that Mr Poots’ Department makes may be appealed by the Department of Health in England because there are devolution issues at stake.
The First Minister also discussed last week’s investment conference in Belfast describing it as “by far the most successful investment conference that we have had”. After exploiting the superb networking opportunities available he revealed that many of the companies already interested in Northern Ireland indicated that “Northern Ireland had now leapfrogged to the top of their shortlist”.
During the scheduled oral questions the First Minister expressed his delight at the success of the Crumlin Road Gaol project calling it “a practical example of the Executive’s commitment to the regeneration of North Belfast”. 85,000 visitors so far this year mean that the target set has already been exceeded. The development of a restaurant and boutique distillery later this year should see the continued success of the project and the creation of more jobs – a significant boost to the local community.
Also on the agenda was an update on the review of the Attorney General’s Office, a rundown on the Sexual Orientation Strategy and an update on the Ten Year Strategy for Children and Young People (with Junior Minister Jonathan Bell discussing the £10m investment into childcare which will also create hundreds of jobs in the childcare sector).