The Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont may be in summer recess and with it politics is in quiet mode, but the leadership in both the DUP and the SDLP have seized the opportunity to make ministerial changes in the department portfolios which they control.
Earlier this month, Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan replaced party colleague Alex Attwood as environment minister and, in a surprise move, DUP leader Peter Robinson has announced that finance and personnel minister Sammy Wilson is standing down in favour of Strangford MLA Simon Hamilton.
Assembly rules allow for party leaders to make ministerial changes from the ranks of their own grouping and, with the next Assembly election most probably in 2016, the DUP and SDLP appointments were obviously made for tactical reasons.
Finance and personnel is, outside of the First and Deputy First Ministerial roles, the most powerful and influential department at Stormont, with the appointed minister holding the devolved administration’s purse strings.
Sammy Wilson, who once taught economics at an east Belfast grammar school, was appointed to the ministry in 2009, with Peter Robinson describing him at the time as the “most qualified finance minister that Northern Ireland has had in decades”.
Certainly, the minister has lived up to this reputation, showing efficiency and an aptitude for sound commonsense economics in a period when fiscal matters are difficult to manage.
As the MP for East Antrim, Mr Wilson will remain fully exercised and within two years, under new government guidelines, he will have to choose between the Westminster parliament or the Stormont Assembly.
His successor Simon Hamilton has speedily risen through the DUP ranks with a capability and work ethic that is widely recognised by colleagues and some politicians from other parties.
In the countdown to the next Assembly poll, there will undoubtedly be other ministerial changes in the Executive.