Kennedy still minister after Nesbitt shake-up

Northern Ireland- 3rd April 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. New Ulster Unionist leader announces his new Assembly Team. Following the first meeting of the Ulster Unionist Assembly Group since his appointment as party leader Mike Nesbitt held a press conference at the Great Hall at Stormont's Parliament Building to announce the re-shuffle. Mike Nesbitt pictured at the press conference.
Northern Ireland- 3rd April 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. New Ulster Unionist leader announces his new Assembly Team. Following the first meeting of the Ulster Unionist Assembly Group since his appointment as party leader Mike Nesbitt held a press conference at the Great Hall at Stormont's Parliament Building to announce the re-shuffle. Mike Nesbitt pictured at the press conference.

NEWLY-ELECTED Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has revealed details of changes to his party’s Stormont Assembly team.

The announcement was made yesterday following the first meeting of the UUP Assembly group under his stewardship.

The Strangford MLA was elected party leader last Saturday ahead of John McCallister at the UUP annual conference in a landslide victory — despite only having joined the party in 2010.

Having failed to win the Strangford Westminster seat in the May 2010 general election, the 54-year-old former broadcast journalist secured an Assembly seat in the same constituency.

Mr Nesbitt has nominated himself to become chair of the OFMDFM Committee with outgoing chair Tom Elliott remaining a member of the committee.

Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy will remain as minister for the Department of Regional Development, and Basil McCrea retains his position as chair of the Department of Employment and Learning Committee.

South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan has been appointed vice chair of the Education Committee.

The party’s new chief whip will be North Antrim MLA Robin Swann.

Mr Nesbitt has had a testing week since becoming leader — facing fierce criticism from suspended party colleague David McNarry and then being lambasted over his pledge to spend a day with a family experiencing social depravation.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Mr Nesbitt said: “I grew up in leafy suburbs in north and then east Belfast and that probably made it relatively easy for me to be here today.

“If I’d been born maybe a mile down the road closer to the city centre you might never have heard of me. So what I’m thinking to myself is that we’re not connected and maybe what I need to do is go and find a family who will adopt me for 24 hours.

“I’d actually like to live in an area of social deprivation because I think it’s important to get a feel for what it’s like.”

Unsuccessful leadership contender Mr McCallister is to continue as the deputy leader of the Assembly group.

He will take charge of the Ulster Unionists’ commission dealing with constitutional issues.

The commission is also involved in exploring how best to advance the benefits of remaining an integral part of the United Kingdom, promoting the Union, and looking at the next phase for Northern Ireland’s devolved administration.

When elected leader, Cambridge graduate Mr Nesbitt became the Province’s only Oxbridge-educated political leader in recent memory, and the first Ulster Unionist leader who is not a member of the Orange Order.