Trio of education board members with SF ties

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Sinn Fein has come in for criticism for selecting appointees with close party links for all of its new Education Board slots.

The party was allowed to choose three posts for the new authority, which will look after the day-to-day running of the Province’s schools – mainly in the controlled sector – from next month.

The DUP was also able to select three, while the SDLP and UUP could choose one each.

All three appointees from Sinn Fein have been politically active with the party in the last five years, ranging from simply canvassing at election time to holding office.

By contrast, out of all the appointments by the other parties, only one (DUP nominee David Cargo) declared any recent political activity.

He “continues to provide education advice and administrative support to a DUP MLA”.

Danny Kinahan, UUP education spokesman said: “It needs to be as free as possible from politicking.

“One of the strongest points we’ve had from teachers in the last few years when we’ve met with them is to please keep politics out of schools, and let them teach.

“It would concern me that too heavy a hand is going to be played. But that’s typical of all that has happened under Sinn Fein’s running of education. They want to influence everything, rather than let the system run itself.”

The new education authority will take over from the five existing education and library boards from April 1.

Meanwhile, policy decision will continue to lie with the Department of Education.

Sinn Fein did not wish to comment because, while it selects the nominees, the department makes the appointments.

However, Alliance Party education spokesman Trevor Lunn said he was “quite impressed” by the new list.

He said the boards themselves had also previously contained a large number of political appointees, and he hailed the fact the selections announced yesterday contain no councillors or MLAs.

In the past, he said boards contained some political members with “no qualifications or educational interest.”

He added: “I looked at the list this afternoon and thought: ‘They are bringing some experience to the board’ – including Sinn Fein.”