CAIN Web Service

Departments - List of Ministers

[Key_Events] Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
POLITICS: [Menu] [Reading] [Articles] [GOVERNMENT] [Political_Initiatives] [Political_Solutions] [Parties] [Elections] [Sources] [Peace_Process]

Text: Martin Melaugh ... Research: Fionnuala McKenna, Brendan Lynn
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

Devolved Government in Northern Ireland
Secretary Assembly Executive Departments Committees North- South British- Irish Conference Civic Forum

List of Ministers

List of Ministers with Short Biographies

Bairbre de Brún (SF)
Minister for Health Social Services and Public Safety
(29 November 1999 - suspension 14 October 2002)
Born and educated in Dublin. Fluent Irish speaker and also speaks French. Moved to Belfast and attended The Queen's University of Belfast. While in Belfast became involved in community politics. Was a leading figure in the H-Block Committee before and during the hunger strikes at the Maze prison. In 1982 joined Sinn Féin. Has been an ardchomhairle member of SF for 15 years. Was SF's spokesperson on policing and justice. Described as hard-working, determined and serious. Most recently came to prominence through her involvement in the multi-party talks and her media interviews.

* Gregory Campbell (DUP)
Former Minister for Regional Development
(27 July 2000 - 24 November 2001)

* Nigel Dodds (OBE) (DUP)
Minister for Social Development
(24 November 2001 - 11 October 2002)
(29 November 1999 - 27 July 2000)
He was educated in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Obtained a first-class law degree from Cambridge. Returned to Northern Ireland in the early 1980s and became a Barrister. In 1985 was elected to Belfast City Council. In 1988 became the youngest (29) Lord Mayor of Belfast. He was a former assistant to his party leader Ian Paisley in Brussels. Dodds escaped injury when the IRA tried to kill him as he visited his son in hospital in 1996. It is thought that Ian Paisley will not run for Europe in 2004 and that Dodds is likely to be the DUP candidate.

Mark Durkan (SDLP)
Minister for Finance and Personnel
(29 November 1999 - 14 December 2001)
Youngest minister in the cabinet. A political activist in his student days at The Queen's University in Belfast and Magee College in Londonderry. In 1984 became the full-time aide of John Hume. In 1995 there was speculation that John Hume would step down from his position as Member of Parliament in favour of Durkan. An SDLP councillor in Derry City Council since 1983 and SDLP chairman from 1990 to 1995.

Reg Empey (Sir) (UUP)
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment
(29 November 1999 - suspension 14 October 2002)
Married with a family. Educated in Armagh and at The Queen's University of Belfast. Degree in Economics. A background in retailing and owns a clothing business. Twice served as Belfast Lord Mayor and chaired the City Council's economic development committee. Received a Knighthood in the British New Year Honours List (1999). Described as a close colleague of David Trimble since the early 1970s. Was a senior talks negotiator for his party.
Resigned 18 October 2001

Sean Farren (SDLP)
Minister of Finance and Personnel
(14 December 2001 - suspension 14 October 2002)
(Formerly Minister for Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment 29 November 1999 - 14 December 2001)
Born in Dublin and an economics graduate of University College Dublin. He has taught abroad in Switzerland and in Sierra Leone. Moved to Northern Ireland in the early 1970s after accepting a teaching post at the University of Ulster. A former chairman (1980-1984) of the SDLP and has been active in the party since 1973 when he joined in Portstewart, Co Derry. Elected to the previous Assembly for North Antrim in 1982. He was part of the SDLP delegation at the Brooke multi-party talks in 1992, and again in the talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement.

Sam Foster (UUP)
Former Minister for the Environment
(29 November 1999 - 20 February 2002)
He is a retired social worker. Hobby is bellringing. A former 'B-Special' and former major in the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). A leading member of the Orange Order in Fermanagh. A longstanding member and former chairman of Fermanagh District Council with a reputation for having strong opinions on security. Following David Trimble's election as leader of the UUP Foster's role in the UUP has increased. However his appointment as Minister is thought to have taken some party colleagues by surprise.
Resigned 18 October 2001

Carmel Hanna (SDLP)
Minister for Employment and Learning
(14 December 2001 - suspension 14 October 2002)
She was born in Warrenpoint, County Down and educated at Our Lady's Grammar School, Newry, County Down before pursuing a career in nursing, later graduating as a registered nurse and as state certified midwife. In 1972 she joined the SDLP and was first elected to public office in 1997 as a councillor on Belfast City Council and was subsequently re-elected in 2001. Ms Hanna was returned as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 for the constituency of South Belfast and before her appointment as a minister, had served on the Assembly's environmental committee as vice-chair and on the health committee.

Michael McGimpsey (UUP)
Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure
(29 November 1999 - suspension 14 October 2002)
Born in Donaghadee,County Down and educated at Regent House, Newtownards, County Down and Trinity College Dublin where he studied English, history and economics. He returned to Newtownards to work in his father's construction firm and opened a do-it-yourself business. McGimpsey and his brother, Chris, came to public notice in the early 1980s when they went to Dublin to present the unionist case to the New Ireland Forum. In 1995 the two brothers returned to Dublin and failed in a Supreme Court challenge to Articles Two and Three of the Republic's Constitution.
Resigned 18 October 2001

Martin McGuinness (SF)
Minister for Education
(29 November 1999 - suspension 14 October 2002)
Born in Derry. Married with children. Hobby is fishing. Became involved in the civil rights movement in Derry after October 1968. Believed to have joined the Republican movement in 1970. Also thought to have been the leader of the Provisional IRA in Derry. Arrested in 1972 and 1974 in the Republic of Ireland and served two terms in prison for IRA membership. Was Sinn Fein's chief negotiator during the multi-party talks leading to the good Friday Agreement. A key advocate of the peace process along side Gerry Adams. Became a Member of Parliament for the Mid-Ulster constituency in 1997 but refused to take his seat at Westminster in accordance with the party's policy of abstention.

* Maurice Morrow (DUP)
Former Minister for Social Development
(27 July 2000 - 24 November 2001)

Dermot Nesbitt (UUP)
Minister of Enviroment
(20 February 2002 - suspension 14 October 2002)
Born into a farming family in County Down and educated at Down High School, Downpatrick, County Down and Queen's University Belfast where he later graduated with a honours degree in Economics before returning to Queen's as a senior lecturer in Finance and head of the Department of Accounting and Finance. His political career began as an election agent (1973-77) for the late Brian Faulkner, the last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, before serving as a Unionist Party Councillor on Down District Council (1981-89). In 19996 he was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue and during the inter-party talks he was a member of the Unionist Party's delegation, where he was to become a close ally of his party leader, David Trimble. Elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 for the constituency of South Down, he served on the Finance and Personnel Statutory Committee, before resigning to become one of the two junior ministers in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister in December 1999. He held this post until his appointment as minister in February 2002.

* Peter Robinson (DUP)
Minister for Regional Development
(24 November 2001 - 11 October 2002)
(29 November 1999 - 27 July 2000)
Married to fellow Assembly member Iris and has three children. A born-again Christian who doesn't smoke or drink. An estate agent by profession. Raised in working-class east Belfast. Was opposed to the Civil Rights Movement. Was a founder member of the DUP and is now deputy leader. In the 1980s he was associated with the Loyalist organisations the Third Force and Ulster Resistance. A Member of Parliament for 20 years many people believe he is almost certain to succeed Paisley as leader of the DUP. He is described as the DUP's hard man, and as being cold, calculating and ruthless but with a razor sharp intellect, a forensic eye for detail and unrivalled organisational abilities.

Brid Rodgers (SDLP)
Minister for Agriculture
(29 November 1999 - suspension 14 October 2002)
Born in Gweedore, County Donegal. Went to university in Dublin. Native Irish speaker and teacher. Married with six children. Has lived in Northern Ireland since 1960. Involved in the civil rights movement from 1965 and in 1969 she led the first civil rights march through Lurgan. Joined the SDLP and became the general secretary. In 1983 she was appointed to Seanad Éireann by the then Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald. Recently has been the SDLP's political representative during the various Drumcree disputes.

Note on the DUP Ministers

* The DUP had two members appointed as Ministers of Departments. This means that the DUP is entitled to two seats in the Executive. However, as part of its protest against the Good Friday Agreement the DUP Ministers do not attend meetings of the Executive. In addition the DUP has taken the decision to resign Ministerial seats every few months and to rotate the positions amongst DUP MLAs.


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :